"Nothing is waste in this world. Everything is of value, especially in agriculture," believes Nivedan Kempe, a pharmacist cum entrepreneur from Mandagadde village in Karnataka‚Äôs Shivamogga district.
The 30-year-old recently launched air fresheners made from the husk of areca nuts.
"Areca nut contains a lot of fibre. However, the husk is thrown away as it is considered waste. We converted the areca nut husk into a material that is similar to a board, added natural growth promoters and perfume to it to make air fresheners," he says.
The customisable product, Nivedan states, is completely biodegradable. "It will decompose within a month. Since it contains natural growth promoters, it will act as a fertiliser once thrown away. The fibres present in it will increase the water retention capacity of the soil."
After earning a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from Shivamogga, Nivedan moved to Australia to pursue a Masters in Manufacturing and Management Technology. He worked there for a few years as a business development consultant before returning to India in 2013.
"My passion was to do something in India. And after coming back I started working in agro-based product development," he says.
The same year he founded his company Mystic Aromatics and started manufacturing air fresheners from recycled paper.
Alongside, he also started devising ways in which agricultural products could be put to several uses and also benefit farmers simultaneously.
"We wanted to add value to agricultural products. At present, the agriculture we practice is focused on selling raw products. Like, we grow paddy, but don't know how to add any value to it. In Western countries, when they cultivate tomatoes, they know how to use the tomatoes in several ways. This ensures that farmers get a good price for their products. It is here (this area) that we are lacking," Nivedan says.
Since Shivamogga is one of the major cultivators of areca nut, it was but only natural for Nivedan to settle on this crop.
"Areca is considered a holy nut by some. Some others say it dangerous as it is used in gutka. But people don't know that areca nut is only a part of gutka and that other components such as tobacco and other chemicals are also added to the gutka," he states.
Through research, Nivedan found how to extract tannin, a compound also present in tea and one which aids digestion, from areca nuts. "Our culture says that people should chew tambula (betel leaf), a major part of which is areca nuts, after meals," he states.
In 2015, he launched Areca tea, a product he claims has been a hit in the market.
Nivedan says several components in areca nut are beneficial to health and that apart from aiding digestion, the tea can also be used in diabetes therapy.
At present, his company is working with rice and sugarcane to see how they can add value to it.
"If more educated people come into agriculture, we can bring about a revolution," he states.