A path opened up for Mahalaxmi after she attended an international fair in Hyderabad in 1998.
Mahalakshmi Reddy V., who retired last year as the associate dean of the College of Home Science, Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, was recently awarded a patent for her work on ‘floral preservation through freeze-drying technology’. Notably, Mahalaxmi is the first Indian to have won a patent for such a subject.
"My passion for flowers has been there since childhood and I always dreamt of leading a life around it. One day, I presented a bouquet to my mother on Mother’s Day; naturally it faded away after a few days. It was then that I decided to do something to make the flowers to last longer," she says.
A path opened up for Mahalaxmi after she attended an international fair in Hyderabad in 1998. "I was fascinated by the beautiful flowers at one of the stalls. I started to explore further on how these flowers could stay fresh in a case container," she recalls. Since then, she has always been passionate about flower’s preservation.
Sharing how her research work took wings in 2008, Mahalaxmi shares, "The university gave me the opportunity to pursue my research for four years. I could only find out the technique to retain the colour and the texture of the flowers, but not the suppleness."
However, her project rose to the next level when the Department of Science and Technology , Government of India, came forward to fund her research. "I started in October 2013 and eventually completed the intensive project in 2016. Soon, I applied for a patent, and got it recently," narrates Mahalaxmi.
The journey required her to be extremely patient. Hard work, sleepless nights, extensive travelling and fatigue often punctuated this 59-year-old’s project work. "It was extremely challenging to manage my administrative responsibilities simultaneously, but I did not want to compromise on my research. There was no reference and the resources available were not sufficient. Since the machinery and laboratory equipment was in Chennai, travelling too took a toll. I approached a company that has Lyophilisation equipment in Hyderabad to provide me with the machinery for research, but they turned me down," she reveals.
Interestingly, the same company later provided her the equipment for prototyping.
She adds, "I want to increase the shelf life of flowers so that people can treasure emotions and get nostalgic when they last longer," she says.
Recently, the Commissioner of Rose Society of Andhra Pradesh and The Directorate Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research asked her to process their flowers so that they can be placed in their museums.