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Creating Biogas from Water Hyacinth

Posted by on May 10th, 2014

Our river (like many others in Bangladesh) is choked with water hyacinth this time of year. This water weed damages the river eco system and makes boat navigation extremely difficult, but it is also an amazing source of energy.
(Photo by Paola Fornari.)


Like many Bangladeshi rivers, ours is regularly clogged with water hyacinth this time of year. Water hyacinth is a water weed which restricts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starves the water of oxygen, often killing fish. When water hyacinth takes over a water way, underwater visibility and boat navigation are reduced; and biodiversity is significantly compromised.

Just as owners of beach resorts must clean the seaweed off of their beaches every morning, we too will need to clean the water hyacinth off of our river. Fortunately, instead of just throwing this weed away or composting it, we can turn it into biogas by putting it in our biogas reactor. To our knowledge, this will be the first commercially operating biogas reactor running off of water hyacinth in the world. Though biogas reactor technology is common in Bangladesh, because our fuel source is new, we decided to create a prototype reactor first to see if the system works as well in practice as it does on paper. And the answer? A resounding, “Yes!”

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is partnering with us to introduce this technology to Bangladesh. The gas generated from Panigram’s biogas reactor will be used to power our gas stoves and ovens, but as biogas is predominantly methane, it can also be burned in a generator and turned into electricity. As an added benefit, the sludge byproduct of the gasification process makes a great fertilizer that we can use on our organic farms.


Our cook, Dipu, cooking our first biogas-heated meal!



Organic Farming Internship at an Eco Resort in Bangladesh

Posted by on March 31st, 2014

Title: Organic Farming Intern

Number of Open Positions: 1

Location: Jessore, Bangladesh

Duration: 8 weeks

Salary: 15,000 Tk/ month living stipend (room, board, and transportation within Bangladesh are provided; students are responsible for their own transportation to and from Bangladesh)

Job Description:
Panigram Resort will be a socially and environmentally responsible spa resort located in southern Bangladesh. We are developing a luxury boutique resort with a spa and wellness center that protects the natural and cultural heritage of Bangladesh, provides authentic and distinctive travel experiences to discerning travelers, promotes sustainable development, and improves the quality of life in the host community. The organic farming intern will work with a professor of organic farming and the villagers to establish an organic farming program in the village building on the work done by the previous year’s intern and using the organic farming plots at Panigram as an example. We have a pilot group of about 25 village farmers who are interested in the program. Interns will teach the villagers organic farming techniques, work with them to apply for grants to cover the losses of the first two years where yields are lower due to soil degradation, and help them figure out the distribution channels to the stores that sell organic produce in Dhaka.

Interns also act as ambassadors for Panigram Resort in our host community and are expected to participate in other activities with the villagers such as Friday English lessons with children and movie nights.

You will be staying in the newly constructed staff quarters at the resort property. The rooms are clean and modern and you will have your own private bathroom, but there is no air conditioning.

Interns are given some basic Bangla lessons when they arrive so that they can communicate with the villagers. The Bangladeshi people are very warm and hospitable and our past interns have formed some strong bonds with the community.

The environment is one of work and play where you can take a pottery class in our pottery village, go on a cow cart ride, take a night time boat ride, and truly experience Bangladeshi village life. The resort is currently under construction so you will be a part of the pre-opening process.

•    Agriculture major preferred, but will also take enthusiastic students with a passion for organic farming
•    Has completed at least their sophomore year
•    Independent worker
•    Comfortable working in foreign cultures

To Apply:
Please send your resume and a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the internship to with the subject “Organic Farming Internship” by May 1, 2014. (Applications without cover letters will not be accepted.)


Panigram Resort Organic Farm Flourishes in Rural Bangladesh

Posted by on January 9th, 2014

Our organic farm test plot next to the riverside bungalows.

Our first planting of our organic test plot is flourishing! Clark, our summer intern, and ULAB professor Shafiqul Islam designed our planting plan: first, we plant a round of legumes (beans and peas) to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Second, members of the brassicaceae (mustard and cabbage) family are planted; these include: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and brussels sprouts. Next, nightshade vegetables are planted; these include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Finally, roots and alliums are planted; these include: garlic, onion, leek, turnip, celery, carrot, beets, etc. Planting in this order restores the nutrients in the soil and creates the ideal growing conditions for our crops. Read the rest of this entry »


Guest Blog: Ecotourism at Panigram Provides a New Perspective on Bangladesh

Posted by on September 25th, 2013

Panigram Apprenticeship Experience guest and Dhaka Tribune reporter Sheikh Mohammad Irfan observes the introduction of eco-friendly tourism in Bangladesh, exemplified by Panigram Resort.


When someone hears the word “Bangladesh,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is Dhaka city, notorious for its congestion, pollution, and impoverished population. But what if all that could change?

Excluding its capital city, Bangladesh is somewhat of an untapped treasure, hidden from global attention and enjoyed only by the locals. From the mystical forests of the Sunderbans to the breathtaking tea gardens of Sylhet to the beaches of Cox’s Bazaar, the natural beauty of the country is mostly admired by Bangladeshis escaping the noise and bustle of the city. Those tourists who do visit mostly stay in commercial hotels and rarely get a fully authentic experience of Bangladeshi culture.

Scenic view along Panigram's vangari village tour route.

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Winter Interns Work on Alternative Energy Project

Posted by on January 23rd, 2011

A couple of months ago a student from Cornell emailed me. She said that she had applied for the summer internship last year at Panigram, but unfortunately was not selected. She said that she really wanted to work for my company and was wondering if she could come do a winter internship with me. I thought that three weeks was too short for an internship, but I was impressed with her initiative, and I always enjoy working with students, so I agreed. Her friend Cat (another Cornell engineering student) decided to join her. Read the rest of this entry »


Buying Land in Bangladesh

Posted by on April 17th, 2010

Dozens of villagers crowded into the candlelit land registration office to put their fingerprints on the document that would mean a significant amount of income for them and a gorgeous piece of land in southern Bangladesh for me.

An employee at the land registration office working by candle light.

An employee at the land registration office working by candle light.

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Generating Power and Excitement at Panigram

Posted by on February 13th, 2010

I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks meeting with parties involved in renewable energy system implementation here in Bangladesh. As mentioned before, the front-runners in terms of power sources are solar and biogas power. A good deal of interest is brewing in the power systems of Panigram resort among various energy providers in Dhaka, and work is underway in getting the feasibility of several means assessed.

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