Agri startup Greenikk builds supply chain to bolster India’s banana fibre-based industry

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Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 29: Agri startup Greenikk, which created India’s first full-stack banana supply chain, has developed a waste-to-value system to strengthen the country’s banana fibre-based industry by ensuring a steady supply of banana stem fibre to entrepreneurs and artisans for producing high value goods having a huge demand in domestic and global markets.

As part of the initiative,Greenikk (www.greenikk.com) has already made arrangements for providing banana fibre to markets in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, besides organising training for micro-entrepreneurs across the three southern states. 

Greenikk is also focusing on various home decor products and artifacts made of banana fibre such as handbags, tote bags, clutches, mats, tableware, tea coasters, serving trays, fruit baskets, flower vases, lamps & shades and wall decors. There is a strong demand for value added products in overseas markets such as France, Spain and USA.

“By creating this waste-to-value chain in the unified banana ecosystem, our focus is on understanding the basic problems in the market and finding viable solutions that would benefit a wide range of industries and crafts using banana fibre,” said Fariq Naushad and Previn Jacob, the Kerala tech duo who have founded the award-winning sustainable startup.

Listing the problems faced by the industry, they said lack of adequate supply of raw material is a major hurdle for mechanised banana fibre processing that is essential for production of value-added goods profitably. For instance, to extract 7 kg fibre, 70 to 80 banana stems have to be processed every day, so making the unit profitable with 1 or 2 machines is not possible unless there is an adequate supply of raw material. 

Another problem is lack of quality standards and specifications, with each unit preferring a different quality of fibre based on its colour, tensile strength, and cellulose content. Absence of a proper sales channel and lack of external support for training and design are also adverse factors faced by the sector, forcing fibre units to close. A unit in Ernakulam that had been manufacturing banana fibre handbags for the past four decades had to halt production for shortage of raw material, the Greenikk founders said. 

Greenikk, which works with large players in the market like Reshamandi and Extra weave, has tried to solve these problems by developing a model created by its R&D facility at Theni in Tamil Nadu, a major banana producing region in south India. The model is based on optimizing fibre output while minimizing production costs. 

“We did testing with 45+ varieties of banana breeds and shortlisted three fibre varieties based on their colour, tensile strength and cellulose content. The requirement of buyers depends mainly upon these three parameters. Our efforts have resulted in a healthy increase in demand for banana fibre by creating awareness about its prospects across 12 different industries,” they said.

The strategy of the 2020-incubated Greenikk hinges on creating a global demand through product awareness, and training and establishing micro-entrepreneurs across banana farming belts to ensure a consistent supply of fibre.

Greenikk has partnered with more than 600 women artisans and, with the help of a design team, unique product concepts are being developed for the global market. The strategy involves creating a front-end sales channel to guarantee the regular transportation of finished goods, which will generate a proper livelihood for these women artisans, its promoters said.

It has also created a new D2C (Direct to Consumer) Instagram page under the name greenikk.shop.

India, the largest producer of bananas in the world, has around 120 varieties that are grown year-round. Almost 20 crore post-harvest plant stems are burnt or wasted every year. Greenikk aims to ensure supplementary income for farmers by using the wasted materials for making banana fibre, handicraft & textile products, and manure or poultry feed — all under its own brand. 

“Waste-to-value is what everyone does, but Greenikk is the first company which has taken a different approach of enabling various stakeholders by solving problems from the root in the natural banana fibre supply chain,” its founders said. 

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