22nd May 2018
We woke up at 5am and started our journey to Navsari Agricultural Institute. We met Mr Kanu Bhai Patel at the Banana Pseudostem Processing Unit. Before he arrived we took a look around at the display room. We saw all the different types of products that were being made by the institute:
1. Banana pseudo stem fiber
2. carded banana fiber
3. banana fiber yarn
4. banana fiber non-woven
5. banana fiber fabrics
6. handmade articles: bags, mats, dolls
7. banana fiber based paper products (files, envelopes)
8. Micro-crystalline cellulose powder
9. Banana fiber paper
11. particle board made from scutching waste
12. dye mordant from banana sap
13. Organic fertiliser liquid from banana stem sap
14. Candy from the core part of them stem
15. Ready to serve drink from the banana central core
He then showed us a video which had all the details of the processes followed. The notes are written below:
62000 hectares of banana farms in Baroda
world banks gave a loan to start this project
JK papers is their partner, CIRCOT Mumbai is their research partner. MANTRA, Surat is their textiles partner. Surat also has a similar research centre
There are 4 parts of the banana stem that can be processed to give useful products: fibre, scutcher. liquid, central core
Farmers used to spend 12000-15000 Rs to remove the banana stems per hectare of land.
The stems are removed free of cost for the farmers (they don't pay them for the stems)
Stems are brought to the unit in trucks
They split it into 2 halves using a splitting machine
Then the parts (layers) of the stems are separated by hand
Then they use the fibre separator machine to remove fibres. This machine was made by CIRCOT Mumbai (farmers advice was also taken into account when making the machine)
The fibres that are removed are cleaned in water and dried in the Sun. (takes 2 days to dry)
They are stored in a place without moisture.
All these fibres are processed in the factory. If this machinery is rented out to the farmers, they buy a kg of fibre at a cost of around 80-100Rs.
A single hectare of land can give 700-800 kg of fibres. 5 average length stems give 1 kg fibre.
The quality of fabric made from the banana fibre is being tested at CIRCOT mumbai and Mantra Surat. they make different types of things: like sofas, seat covers (cars)
The fibres are boiled to make a slurry/pulp
Then it is put into a paper making machine which will make paper out it of different thickness
It is put into a cutting machine to make different products such as files, boxes, envelope etc
Microcrystalline cellulose powder is made from this. It is used for filler part of medicines/capsules. (process not specified)
It is made into a candy, it is actually tasteless so additional flavouring has to be added
It is also made into Ready to serve drinks (again additional flavouring required)
jam is also made
The waste that is collected from fibre removal is called scutcher
They squeeze it using a screw press to remove the liquid. This liquid is fermented to give organic liquid fertiliser
Its composition is high in Potash(highest), nitrogen, phosphorous (NPK)
The liquid can also be used as a dye mordant to ensure the colour stays.
The residue is decomposed to make vermicompost. 30 percent cow dung is mixed and earthworms and ants are added to aid the process. This process takes 45 days, while other organic waste takes 60-70 days
Fish food can also be made from this. 30% of the fish food is vermicompost
8-10 tonnes of fertiliser is got from 1 hectare. Sold at 5/- per kg
Navroji is the name of the brand of fertilisers. It is very useful in farming of sugarcane, onion and bananas)
Cardboard is also made from the scutcher
Navsari farming centre processes the liquid to make Naoroji
What are the Process Costs for the different products?
- 60-70/- per litre for fertiliser
- 45-50 per kg for fibre
- 500/- per kg candy
- 130-140/- per kg for paper
Cost of labour is around 178/- per day.
2. What are the specifications of the machine?
It costs around 1 lakh. Now it may cost around 70-80k the motor horsepower is 3-5. Motor rpm is 1430, wheel rpm might be around 900-1000rpm. It has a grooved rod and rotating shaft with fins on it. When the wheel turned it would be subjected to a rubbing action that would remove the scutcher. The gap between the fin and grooved rod is between 1-1.5mm. Material is high carbon steel for the rotor blade, while rest of the body was made by cast iron. A single labourer working for 8 hours can get around 25kg of fibres. Capacity of 300-400kg of stems per day.
3. Is the market for banana based products good?
The organic fertiliser market is very good. We have signed MoUs with 12-13 companies in Maharastra and Gujarat who have bought our technology. It costs 20lakhs to set up the entire plant. Out of which 4 lakhs is our cost for the technology
The other markets are not so good. We currently have 20 tonnes of fabric sitting idly in our storage. That is why we have stopped running the machines.
4. Do you approach the farmers or do the farmers approach you to buy the stems?
We generally use the stems within the agricultural institute. If our need is more, then we approach outside farmers. We currently do not pay the farmers for the stems.
5. Why is the market for banana waste based products not so good? Why isn’t more marketing being done?
Firstly there is not too much awareness about these products. Earlier we had received grant from the central government for this project. But now those grants have stopped. Further, as a government company, we cannot do any marketing. But the companies which bought these patents from us, they are doing good marketing and are also selling the fertilisers at around 3000-4000 repose per litre. We sell it for only 130/- per litre.
Also, these products are very expensive because of the processing costs involved, which are very high, For example, there are bags made of jute also, which are much cheaper than banana fibre bags. But quality wise, the banana products are superior. For example the files made from banana paper are much more durable than the ones currently used. The high processing costs is mainly due to machinery and labour costs.
As for creating awareness amongst farmers, we do conduct workshops with farmers. ATMA is also working in this area. But it is proving to be expensive for farmers also. Further lot of labour is involved. Nowadays, instead of throwing stems away, farmers are burying it in the soil.
6. Are there any problems faced in cutting, transportation or storage of stems?
No. These stems have lot of water content so they are easy to cut. Transportation is simple, there is no damage that the stems face during transportation. Stems can be used within 10-15 days of cutting before the quality of fibre goes down. Maybe by storing it in a cold storage they can last longer, but the quality will still go down after sometime.
7. When do you get banana waste? Throughout the year or seasonally?
A single tree will only give one loom in its lifetime. Once a loom is cut, they cut the tree and it becomes waste. This process happens thought the year. Around 6-7 trees are cut at a time, with maybe around a week’s gap between them. It is not seasonal. But during monsoon season, they do not cut the stems because the high moisture content will spoil the fibres.
8. Do you know anything about biofuel/biogas uses for banana waste?
No, I do not know.
9. What else can banana fibre be used for?
The non woven banana fibre can be used in coolers, it has good thermal insulation properties. (in fact, sir’s cabin had covered his windows using a mat of non-woven fibre) It also has sound absorbing properties. Car companies like BMW and audi have used this for sound absorption. It has also been used in car bodies for thermal insulation, for protection from the sun’s heat.