Kottayam: A host of ecofriendly initiatives are being introduced at the upcoming G20 Sherpa meeting at the renowned travel destination of Kumarakom in Kerala and notable among them are edible plates and straws.
The plates, which are made from powdered chaff of wheat, could be eaten as such after relishing a meal on them. At the same time, the nature-friendly straws produced using rice powder need to be fried to be enjoyed as a crispy snack.
However, if you don’t want to try these unique delicacies, simply discard them under a plant as they would become good manure in 30 days.
Incidentally, the G20 meet in Kumarakom is all set to discuss the issue of sustainable development. Preparations are under way at the KTDC resort where the meeting will be held from March 30 to April 2.
World’s lone manufacturer
Currently, there is a single manufacturer for these products in the world and it is located in Kerala. Vinayakumar Balakrishnan, the owner of the firm Vir Naturals Private Limited, also belongs to the state and hails from Ernakulam.
The edible plates and straws are marketed under the brand name ‘Thooshan.’
Another company in Poland also had been manufacturing these products before the Ukraine war, but ceased operations when the hostilities began.
Vinayakumar earlier worked as the CEO of an insurance firm in Mauritius and noticed the plate made of wheat chaff during a journey.
Becoming interested in the product and hoping to manufacture it in India, he contacted the Polish firm, which was the sole producer at that time, expressing his willingness for a joint project in India.
However, the Polish company rejected Vinayakumar’s request, saying that it did not wish to supply the product to Indians.
Vinayakumar took this as a challenge and launched his own firm at the INKEL Business Park at Angamaly in Kerala. The location was chosen in view of the easy availability of wheat chaff from the numerous flour mills in the area.
It took another four years to develop the technical know-how, which was done by the CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research). The plates and straws are now being manufactured using robotic technology.
Demand shoots up
Meanwhile, the eco-friendly straws are being created with dust which normally goes waste while rice is powdered. The straws are also exported.
“The current daily production of plates is only 1,000 and we are unable to export the item even when there is a demand,” said Vinayakumar.
“For the G20 meet at Kumarakom, our firm has supplied 3,500 plates and straws,” he added.
Referring to the ecofriendly quality of the products, Vinayakumar said, “Used plates and straws are good cattle feed. When discarded in the water bodies, the fish will consume them.”
The straws would retain their form when wet for up to 90 minutes. However, it cannot withstand hot water, he said. Each straw is priced at Rs 1.30, he informed.
Meanwhile, the wholesale price of each wheat plate is Rs 10, Vinayakumar added.
Already having earned quality certificates and awards in India and abroad for the products, Vinayakumar is excited over the G20 meet, which could bring him more recognition.
Business booms for eateries
Yet another entrepreneur who is beaming over the G20 meet is Nisha, who has been running a food outlet at Kumarakom for the last six years.
“Every year, business is dull during March in view of the annual exams and Ramadan fasting and it picks up only by mid-April. However, our hotel is always busy these days, thanks to the G20 meet,” said Nisha.
In fact, numerous people started arriving in Kumarakom for the preparations of the summit, benefiting the eateries in the area.
With the roads also improved, the number of travellers passing through the area has also increased, bringing more customers to local hotels.
The main venue of the meet at KTDC resort also is spruced up with natural materials such as bamboo and jute, totally avoiding plastic.
Seven houseboats have been brought to Kumarakom from Alappuzha to take delegates staying in some resorts to the main venue at KTDC. “Around half of the participants will reach the main venue by road and rest by houseboats,” said Kottayam District Police Chief K Karthik.
Security check has already taken place on the houseboats and a mock drill was conducted by the police along with Fire and Rescue Services and Health Department, he said.