Ecobuddy Exports – palm jaggery

Processes palm jaggery into value added products for exports and domestic sales. Also manufactures bio reactors

Palm jaggery is nature’s gift to human life. Demand is high but supply is less because palm tree climbers are declining day-by-day and so its trade is losing its’ shine. Observing disheartening circumstances of the industry and people belonging to it, Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh once a practicing Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant on her return from USA took the initiative to revive the life of farmers and climbers. “I belong to palm tree climbers’ community and so wanted to do something meaningful for them. I wanted to value add palm jaggery so that they could have a better living because only value addition can lead to more earnings,” she says as the drive to establish Ecobuddy Exports in 2007.

The company is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It manufacturers and supplies organic sweetener, palm sugar, palm sugar powder and, palm jaggery.

Mrs. Subathra returned to India in 2004 and then she invested three years interacting with palm tree growers, climbers, NGOs and traders to understand the trade scenario. “Palm trees are environment-friendly trees as they grow using minimum ground water, control soil erosion and yield healthy products for living beings. They are an asset for us. We have to protect and revive palmyra industry,” she says and adds, “Palmyra tree based products’ future is promising as awareness about its health benefits is increasing but unfortunately climbing the tree is the most difficult task and so the supply of palm jaggery is less. Dates and sap from the tree can be procured only manually when a climber climbs the tree. We tried doing farm mechanization but could not find a solution,” she adds.

Determined to make it a success she made a humble beginning by convincing farmers to supply palm jaggery to the company. “Farmers make jaggery from dates and supply to us. We did try to train them for four years to make pure jaggery but it was not possible. So we then started processing the raw jaggery (full of impurities) into different value added products at our processing plant. We purify the jaggery at our factory without using any chemicals,” says Mrs. Subathra.

There are more than 1000 farmers associated with Ecobuddy Exports for plam jaggery supply. The company’s procurement team visits farmers’ field for buying the jaggery. Farmers are paid money in advance for the jaggery supply. Price is subject to market fluctuations but on an average farmers are paid Rs. 100-150/kg. Payments are made in cash.

When asked about palm jaggery being a seasonal product with low shelf life, she explains, “Peak jaggery supply is from March-May every year. Approximately one farmer supplies 20kg jaggery/day/week. We store it in deep humidifiers at our warehouse and process it as the order comes and manufacture the products. Our purchase supply is limited to three months but we produce and supply products the entire year.” Production capacity of the plant is 30 tonnes/month. “We want to always supply fresh products so we produce against the orders. Lead time depends on order size however usually it is 60 days,” she adds.

Fab India was amongst the initial customers of Ecobuddy Exports. “We made an encouraging start with Fab India and since then there is no looking back. We are consistently supplying palmyra tree based value added products in India and International market,” shares Mrs. Subathra. 70% of annual produce is exported and rest 30% is sold in India. Products are certified as per Indian, American and European standards. “In India we are selling through organic stores under the brand name ‘Ecobuddy’ whereas in the International market we supply in bulk quantity which is then repacked and sold under the buyer company’s brand name,” she adds. Products are mainly exported to US and UK in 20 kg packs. 1 ton is the minimum order quantity for exports while it is 100kg for domestic market.

Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh is always keen to work in favor of the environment and hence named her company as Ecobuddy Exports. She has recently introduced ‘Bio Reactors’ in her product line about 9 months back. Quoting the new product as revolution to all environment related problems she elaborates, “We are manufacturing bio reactors. These bio-reactors are attached to boiler (run on wood fuel) to reduce the fuel consumption and black smoke emitted by the boilers. The reactors also facilitate using any form of bio mass as fuel in place of wood, thus solving the problems of managing agricultural waste. So far we have successfully installed 15 bio reactors across Tamil Nadu. Our customers are very happy with the savings on fuel consumption. We are successfully using tender coconut waste as fuel through this system.”

The manufacturing technology is certified by Ministry of Renewable Energy (MNRE). 10 bio reactors can be made in one day at the factory. Lead time is 45 days. Bio reactors are customized as per the boiler size and hence the price varies. It costs Rs. 4 lakh/unit for a 1 ton boiler. “Installation is less than 2 days. ROI on bio-reactors is less than 6 months for the buyers. We give warranty of one year. Life of bio reactor is 10 years,” she adds. Presently bio reactors are sold within India but after a year it shall be exported too.

Future plan at Ecobuddy Exports is to continue working for betterment of palm tree climbers and farmers and reach more customers for bio reactor sales. “Bio reactor is a mode to protect environment from deterioration for almost all the industries. It has the potential and we are working to tap it,” concludes Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh, “We are planning to plant more palmyra trees and encouraging people to take up palm tree climbing profession with pride. Demand is more and we can meet it with only increased a supply. In addition we want our youth to realize palmyra tree climbing can fetch them salary just like any software engineers.”

Contact details-
Ecobuddy Exports
159, Thiruvalluvar Salai, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai – 600041, Tamil Nadu, India
Mob: 09962520528
Web: ,

Umapathy Farms – Sugar and honey made from coconut sap

Sugar, syrup and honey made from coconut sap using icebox technology

Umapathy Farms is a family owned business set up by Mr. S.Umapathy in 1983. Farm has two divisions, horticulture and poultry. Horticulture division is focused on coconut hybridization and lemon plantation. Farm is located on Pollachi Road, Palladam, Tamil Nadu.

Initially it was a small farm with only 200 coconut trees but today spreads in more than 75 acres. “Passion and right guidance from industry professionals is the key behind the success,” says Mr. N.U. Raam Mohan, son of Mr. Umapathy. He also heads the marketing and strategy division. “At the time of expansion of coconut farm in 2004 we wanted our coconut trees to be high yield, high quantity of tender coconut, sweet tender coconut, copra content, but the main point of consideration was that the tree should have an early yield in spite of growing slowly. We got the solution with Ramganga variety,” he shares, “We combined the female dwarf tree with the male from the tall tree to get a hybrid coconut seedling (D*T). The yield is high and produced coconut is used as copra as well as tender coconut.”

Coconut Sugar

Tender coconut is sold on an average at Rs. 16/piece. 20% of farm produced coconut is sold as copra and tender coconuts. Rest 80% is used for coconut hybridization and for producing value added products namely coconut sugar, syrup and honey.

When asked the drive behind getting into value addition of coconut based products Mr. Raam says, “We came to know about a new technology developed by CPCRI to produce coconut sugar naturally without any preservatives. So we approached them for the same. Over period of time we have developed our own model using our trails to produce coconut based value added products successfully since 2014.”

Umapathy Farms uses ‘icebox technology’ to collect the coconut sap instead of traditional methods. Explaining the difference Mr. Raam says, “In traditional method people use mud pot to collect the coconut sap. They apply lime in the mud pot so that the coconut sap doesn’t get fermented. It leads to impurities and insects breeding while collecting the sap in the morning. On the contrary in icebox technology we use sealed container referred as ice box. No anti fermenting solutions are added. Insect breeding and contaminations are restricted. This enables us to collect the 100% natural sap from coconut tree. The sap is used as raw material for producing sugar, honey and syrup.”

The value added procedure is same in the beginning but it later changes with respect to the product. “The first half of the production procedure is same for all three products. The second half varies accordingly but the technology used for all three is the same,” he adds.

Coconut sugar is claimed to be a complete 1:1 replacement for sugarcane based sugar. It has a caramel flavour to it. It tastes very different from sugars available in the market. “Our coconut sugar is produced without any preservatives and additives. It is 100% natural. The difference between our sugar and the sugars available in the market is that the raw material we use for making coconut sugar is collected in controlled and protected condition, it is insect and dust free, which is not the case in most of plam sugars currently available in the market,” informs Mr. Raam.

“Coconut sugar is the only product which is ready for sale and we have started marketing it in organic shops. Soon it will be available in metro cities,” he adds. All the products are tested at various stages as per the food processing protocols. Commercial sale of coconut sugar is expected to take place mostly before March 2015. It shall be sold under the brand name Farm Made Naturals.

Farm Made Food, brand name for coconut based value added products produced and sold by Umapathy Farms

Poultry is another vertical of the farm. Mr. Umapathy took up poultry farming in 1983 because of the favourable climatic conditions required for the birds. He started with1000 birds, “Currently we have around 1.5 lack layer birds, with a daily production of 90,000 white eggs/day,” he adds. The poultry farm unit is semi automated where feeding systems are completely automatic but eggs are collected manually. 52% of eggs are sold locally in Palladam and Tirupur while rest in Kerala. Eggs are packed and transported in standard egg collection trays. “Our selling price per egg varies between Rs.2.95-3.80, depending on the market,” shares Mr. Raam.

Lemon plantation is spread over 30 acres. “We predicted increase in demand of lemon hence started with lemon plantation. In addition lemon tree requires very less water,” he informs. Annual produce varies a lot due to change in climatic condition. Lemon is sold at, “Approximately Rs. 60/kg,” he shares.

Mr. Raam Mohan did his BE (Mechanical) in India and for masters, MSc (Management with Enterprise and Business Growth) he studied at University of Glasgow, UK. He says, “Both my degrees help me to understand the importance of quality and quantity making it easy to interpret complex business. My passion is to work in agriculture sector, so I try to combine all these to best of my advantage.”

Contact details-
Umapathy Farms
Pollachi Road, Nasuvanpalayam, Venkitapuram (PO), Palladam, Tirupur – 641664, Tamil Nadu
Phone: (04255) 252166, +91 9715370707