African Applied Chemicals (AAC) is a biotechnology company that manufactures long-lasting insect repellent textiles. These materials are designed to be used in environments where there are mosquitoes and other biting insects or pests. The idea behind this invention from Applied Chemicals is to create clothing that repels mosquitoes which may carry malaria. This is an effective preventative measure when one is exposed to environments where malaria poses a threat.
Studies have found that, generally, malaria-infectious mosquitos bite on the ankles. In response to this, AAC has created socks and bracelets that give off an insect-repelling scent for an extended period of time. This means that lovers of the outdoors can continue to enjoy outdoor activities knowing that vulnerable areas of their bodies are protected. In line with this, in 2019, AAC celebrated a significant milestone in their development and signed a distribution deal which will see their products distributed in stores located in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas.
After extensive research, AAC is now looking to expand its technological reach into different sectors. Mthokozisi Sibanda, the scientist behind the textile and MD of AAC, explains that there is a growing need for more organic and natural solutions to problems faced in various industries. “We have been looking into entering the agricultural sector where farmers have been using synthetic antifungal agents to reduce the amount of harvest loss due to pests and insects.” In response, AAC has found plants and trees that can be used to treat and prevent fungal infection on fruit trees to minimise harvest loss. Using their technology, AAC is looking to assist fruit farmers who export their products to Europe from losses that could extend to billions of Rands from their use of synthetic products.
The medical industry is another place for potential expansion for the company. Sibanda explains: “We are looking to get into the medical industry where we can use our technology to assist in the healing process of deep wounds where there is a high risk of infection. With such wounds, the patient needs to go to the hospital to get their wound treated and redressed several times before they are out of danger of infection”. With the use of advanced medical technology, where the wound dressing is already antimicrobial, the formation and growth of bacteria can be significantly reduced. This would decrease the frequency of patient wound infections while also decreasing the expenses of healthcare facilities.
Sibanda recognises The Innovation Hub as having made a huge impact on the growth of his business. African Applied Chemicals is not only a tenant of the Biopark@Gauteng, but The Innovation Hub’s incubation programmes have also equipped Sibanda with entrepreneurial skills.
“Coming into the innovation and entrepreneurship space as a scientist and not as a business person, I found The Innovation Hub to be very supportive in my journey. They complement the business side and slowly ‘professionalise’ you using tools such as the growth wheel which looks at your business from an aerial perspective. They also monitor your growth each quarter to ensure that it is balanced and sustainable,” concludes Sibanda.