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Made in Madurai                

Monday, August 22, 2011

Coco Fiber business in Coimbatore

It buys coconut husk from farmers at Rs. 100 per 1,000 husks (or coconut shells after extraction of copra) and converts it into coir rope, which it sells to companies like Kurlon, a manufacturer of rubberised coir mattresses, for Rs. 1,600 per quintal.

Over the last one year these farmers, who were earning Rs. 50 per 1,000 husks, have doubled their income to Rs. 100 per 1,000 husks.

The cooperative has introduced products like coir fibre, coir yarn, corridor mats, curled coir, coir composites, coir pith and needle felt or non-woven fabric.

The factory produces 30 tonnes of coir fibre per month and provides livelihood to nearly 400 growers, employing 40 of them directly.

The factory has been securing orders from both the government and the corporate sector. The factory at Thyagatur, which started operations in April 2010, has won orders for its coir products from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited; Malnad Engineering College, Hassan; Kurlon; Abhay Infotech, Ahmedabad and the Karnataka Government's education department.

The Coir Board has provided technology for developing designs for products that are eco-friendly and water-proof. They are five to 10 per cent cheaper than plywood.

"Home designers, furniture outlets, and industrialists are choosing coir products because they are 'value for money', a substitute for synthetic fibres, eco-friendly and versatile, light on the wallet as well as on the environment, durable and weather-resistant," said Kidigannappa.

What are some of the uses for coconuts?

As Fuel

Stanton: "Right now there is a lot of oil production, but beyond that there is not much use for the rest of the coconut. We brainstormed the conventional ways to use the coconut, one idea being to modify an existing diesel engine to run on the coconut oil without making it into biodiesel. It doesn't do a lot of good to have coconut oil available to make into biodiesel if you have to use a chemical, such as methanol, to mix with it. Instead, you can preheat the coconut to about 90 degrees for it to flow through the engine. As long as you start your engine on the diesel, then switch it over to coconut, then switch it back to the diesel towards the end to get the oil out of the lines, it will work just fine."


"We have also looked into making charcoal with the coconut shell," says Stanton. "It burns well and burns quick, but there is still a lot of work to be done."

"Coconut does have a high energy content," admits Dr. Bradley. "Although we think that burning things is usually the least economically advantageous way to use any material."

Cooking and Food
"The coconut has several parts," explains Dr. Bradley. "Its got the meat out of which you can get oil-meal, which can be used to make bread (it also has a decent amount of protein), and is also used for animal feed."

Activated Carbon Filter
"The coconut is very dense, which makes another good application for the coconut shell, activated carbon filters (such as in refrigerator or aquarium water filters)," says Stanton. "However the demand for this is relatively low."

Gardening/Potting Soil, and Diaper Filler Dr. Bradley: "The coconut piph dust can absorb 10 times its weight, which has many interesting applications for gardening when it is mixed with peat moss, which is rich in nutrients. One of our earlier ideas we had was diaper filler. We actually bought some diapers, took the existing stuff out and ran the same tests and found that the absorbed 50 times its weight in water, so we knew we couldn't quite compete with that."

Geotechnical Netting
Stanton: "For the coconut husk which is made of long fibers with a dense piph. It can be twined into rope which is then made into geotechnical netting to be used on hillsides to prevent erosion. You can put grass seed directly into the net, put the net on the hill, and then the grass will start growing. In a few years the nets will biodegrade until all you have left is the grass holding the hillside together. This is very common in typhoon stricken countries that have heavy rain seasons."

Synthetic Fibers for Automotive Grade Interiors
Stanton: "Our first patent pending invention is using the coconut fiber as a replacement for synthetic/polyester fibers in thermal forming composites (such as the plastics found in the interior surfaces of an automobile). We replace some of the oil based synthetic fibers normally used with coconut fibers for reinforcement composites. It costs much less than synthetics, it is more environmentally friendly (safer), and it allows the farmers who live in these rural countries to make more money for the product they grow."

"11 million coconut farmers rely exclusively on the coconuts they grow for their income and they make between $1 to $2 a day, but if we could raise that to $6 or $7 a day, it would make a tremendous difference in their available lifestyle (which means they will get to eat). We could help these people, lower the costs for the product, and create a sustainable business, so it is not all based on charity."

Dr. Bradley: "Why we are looking at coconut fiber for automotive composites is because we want big huge markets, so that if we can find something that works, it will generate literally millions of pounds of demand at a much better price point. This application has the potential to dramatically increase the demand for coconut fiber over the current polyester (synthetic) fiber. Our goal would be to at least triple the income of a lot of poor coconut farmers. They typically have between six to eight family members a piece, so the total number of people to be benefited would be about 80 million."

"The coconut replacement fiber will help the poor farmer, make the finished automotive product more green, and its mechanical properties are as good if not better than the current polyester. It is kind of a win-win for everyone. Also, coconut fiber does not burn very easily, which is one of the tests that will have to be performed in order for it to be used as an automotive application."

Coir (the fiber from the husk of the coconut) is used in ropes, mats, brushes, sacks, caulking for boats and as stuffing fiber for mattresses.[42] It is used in horticulture in potting compost, especially in orchid mix.

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