During a tour to Pushkar, Rajasthan in 2005, Dharambir Kamboj enrolled in a training session where the group was taught how to make perfume from rose petal extracts. This inspired him to create a machine that helps process agricultural produce. His innovation, a multi-food processing machine, allows the extraction of oils and juices from aloe vera, holy basil, soybean, turmeric, cumin, roses, and other produce.
This cost-effective and unique product helped Dharambir, who is from Damla village in Haryana, target domestic and overseas markets in 2009. Now, a decade later, the farmer has come up with a corn milk product that is selling fast. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the farmer worked on how to create a corn extractor machine at one-tenth of its cost, and process the corn into milk,
Talking about his journey with The Better India, Dharambir says that when he returned home from Pushkar, he began experimenting with various crops that could fetch good income. “I experimented with processing holy basil, gooseberry, jamun, garlic mango, guava, and so on. The effort directed me to conceive a machine that could process all food items, rather than having to need a separate one for specific farm produce,” he adds.
Understanding the mechanism
Dharambir travels around the country and provides consultation on farming and food processing to farmers. He says his trips and interactions help him learn different agricultural practices. “During one trip, I learned about growing corn. I realised it can fetch good market value of Rs 20 a kilo for corn produce, and Rs 25 a kilo for cornflour. Moreover, raw corn fetched more value if it was sold as sweet corn or processed into products like corn starch,” he says.
He adds, “Sweet corn earns Rs 40 to Rs 80 a kilo. One acre of raw corn yields 20 quintals, while ripe corn weighs around 25 quintals. The former gives more produce. Hence, when the season arrived in 2019, I started growing corn and finding ways to process it,” he says.
Dharambir realised he needed a machine to extract corn from the cob and save time in manual labour. Lockdown restrictions further made it difficult to procure one. So he used steel plates and bearings to create a machine. His first two attempts failed, but the third time was the charm.
“I watched many YouTube videos to understand the mechanism and functionality of corn extracting machines. I learned what parts are needed and their role in the extraction process. A machine from China cost Rs 2.5 lakh, but I made it in Rs 20,000,” he adds.
Talk of the town
He harvested raw corn and decided to make consumable milk from it. “If corn can be processed into starch, I thought it might be possible to make milk from it. I extracted corn juice from a multi-food processing machine,” he says.
Dharambir then mixed the extract with cow milk and added some water to reduce thickness, and boiled it. Some corn residue was cleaned and added to the milk to retain the flavour. After completing the boiling process, he blended the sugar and allowed the mixture to cool.
“I packed the mixture in 200 ml glass bottles and priced the product at Rs 20. Initially, only 35 bottles were put on the shelves by shopkeepers in the area. They were sold immediately,” he says, adding, “Corn malt can substitute normal milk to make tea, gajar halwa, and other food items.”
The innovation has since become talk of the town, and even earned Dharambir praises from Chief Minister Manohar Lal. “The CM, as well as Mehar Chand, director of the corn board, visited me,” he says. Dharambir has demonstrated the feat with farmers in Shillong and Himachal Pradesh too.
To read this story in Hindi please click here.
Edited by Divya Sethu