Kiara Nirghin Wins Google Science Fair

Nirghin comes home with a R680,000 scholarship for her remarkable drought project that will improve the lives of farmers around the globe.

South African Indian, Kiara Nirghin had a great love for chemistry since she was a youngster. Her remarkable project  and its simplicity with the amazing potential it has to improve the lives of farmers around the globe who have to adapt to increasingly dry conditions.

Kiara Nirghin had a great love for chemistry since she was a youngster. She recalls at the age of 7 experimenting with vinegar and baking soda solutions in plastic cups. It was her natural curiosity and questioning nature that sparked her love of science.

Nirghin also credits M.S Swaminathan, that has always been an inspiration of hers as he truly believed in the necessary movement of not only India but the whole world towards sustainable agricultural development.

Kiara intends to utilize the money she won to continue her studies in science, but also further the scientific development and application of her idea, and in addition extend scientific progress in elevating the problems that South Africa faces in food security and sustainable agricultural development.

Her father’s mantra

Bob Nirghin always told her, “You can get as many A’s in School and University but what matters most is what you do for the man that cannot do for themselves.” This quote was her dad’s constant mantra that inspired her to research and develop ways in combatting the drought that South Africa is currently facing.

kiara nirghin south africa

When asked what could she make better with science, she looked around her and saw poor farmers struggling to bring in enough crops to stay in business, and she wondered if there was something she could do to help.

“I sought to create a product that can improve soil quality, preserve water and resist drought therefore producing a better environment for crops grow. It is must be harmless and non-polluting with super water absorbing ability and water preserving ability.”

Nirghin surpassed students from around the world for a $50,000 (R680,000) scholarship with her “fighting drought with fruit” submission.  The drought, the worst since 1982, led to crop failures and animals dying.

The people who supported her

Nirghin owes her success to her parents for their sincere support throughout this project, Mrs S.Jagath, a Physics teacher & Mrs S. Naidoo, HOD of Physics & Chemistry at St Martin’s High School for their constant mentorship

The inspiration that drove the Google Scientist

“It always seems impossible until it is done,” is a quote by the Father of my Nation, Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela has always been my greatest inspiration regarding my perseverance and ability to never give up , it was through his legacy that I always try and change the lives of the people around me and therefore planted the seed of thought at the start of my experiments.


Check out Kiara Nirghin’s Google Science project here

Ms Nirghin, a student at the Anglican Church-founded St Martin’s High School in the main city Johannesburg, said three experiments over 45 days resulted in her coming up with the “orange peel mixture” as an alternative to expensive and non-biodegradable super-absorbent polymers (SAPs).

It was made out of waste products from the juice-manufacturing industry, she said.


These included molecules found in orange peels and naturally occurring oils in avocado skins.

“The product is fully biodegradable, low-cost and has better water retaining properties than commercial SAPs. The only resources involved in the creation of the ‘orange peel mixture’ were electricity and time, no special equipment nor materials were required,” Ms Nirghin added in her online submission.

The student, who was awarded the prize at the annual fair in California, said she hoped it would help farmers save both money and their crops.

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