Homemaker-turned-agripreneur Jaimy Saji collects jackfruit seeds from farmers to make preservative-free health products such as instant payasam, coffee powder, and dosa mix.
Did you know that jackfruits are one of the most wasted fruits in India? Jaimy Saji, a homemaker-turned-entrepreneur from Wayanad, Kerala, learned about this in a class she took conducted by the agricultural department in 2019.
That’s when she became aware of the health benefits of jackfruit seeds, which are available in plenty all over Kerala. She says, “I studied various methods to make use of the seeds of jackfruit, which otherwise goes into the garbage bin after having the fruit. One way was to dry and powder them, and make payasam (sweet porridge, a South-Indian dessert) out of the seeds.”
Jaimy prepared this dessert and distributed it among her neighbours for tasting. All of them loved it and started asking her for the recipe. Someone even approached her to make the dish for a small event at their house.
While engaging in all these activities, Jaimy gave serious thought to making this dish during the off-season.
“Jackfruit is one of the most-grown fruits of Wayanad. But it is only available during summer. However, since the wastage is huge, there is always an option to store them and use them throughout the year. This led me to the idea of setting up a company to prepare and sell products made of jackfruit and its seed,” says the agripreneur.
Jaimy and her husband initiated their search for machines that could clean and powder the seeds. But they couldn’t find what they wanted, which eventually led to the customisation of one.
Finally, in the same year, Jaimy wore the cap of an entrepreneur by setting up Holy Cross Industries, a venture to support jackfruit farmers by making value-added products using the fruit.
Jaimy Saji says that she had never imagined she would become an entrepreneur even in her wildest dreams. She is an MA Malayalam graduate and says, “I’ve always been a homemaker and it kept me busy.” As years passed and her kids grew up, her engagements at home minimised. That’s when she began small-scale farming and attended a few classes related to it, which gave an all-new direction to her life.
Jack of all ‘benefits’
Today, Holy Cross Industries uses the brand name ‘Jack Fresh’ to sell more than 10 varieties of products, such as dosa mix, idiyappam mix, steam cake mix, coffee powder and instant payasam mix. All of these products have jackfruit seeds as the main ingredient.
“Being filled with antioxidants, proteins, iron and Vitamin A, jackfruit seeds are capable of preventing anaemia, curing skin diseases and supporting healthy hair growth. But people often avoid using these seeds because cleaning them is a tedious task. Also, there is a misconception that not many dishes can be prepared out of it,” says 45-year-old Jaimy.
Their team also produces other items from the fruit, such as dehydrated jackfruit, jam, frozen tender raw jackfruit, jackfruit pulp, and health drink mix.
“It is calculated that only 10 per cent of the fruit produced in the state is consumed. The rest is wasted. As the fruit is largely available in Kerala, there is not much scope for direct sales too,” says Anil Jose. He is a member of a WhatsApp community called Chakkakkoottam that tries to minimise the wastage of jackfruits.
“By producing similar value-added products from the fruit, its wastage can be diminished and it can provide better health to the consumers,” says Jaimy.
She adds that the instant payasam mix, which can be prepared within 10 minutes, has been a bestseller ever since its launch. “Keralites make payasam out of anything for any big or small event. And now, the jackfruit seed payasam is a new addition to the dessert menu of Kerala.”
Another peculiar product from their list is ‘coffee powder’ that does not have coffee beans as an ingredient!
“Jackfruit seeds, after processing, smell so similar to coffee. So we decided to create this unique product by making ‘coffee powder’ with jackfruit seeds. The product is manufactured in small quantities now but is getting good responses from everyone. We hope that it becomes our next bestseller,” says Jaimy.
Supporting local jackfruit farmers
The jackfruit seeds go through two levels of cleaning and the plastic-like outer skin is removed using a machine in Jaimy’s factory.
“The next layer, brown in colour, is good for the stomach and avoids gastric problems. So, we keep it and take the seeds to the next process – dehydration. Powdering is the final step and it is then turned into various products by adding other ingredients in small quantities manually,” says Jaimy.
Jaimy shares that last year, a total of 50 tonnes of seeds were utilised to make the products. These were brought to the factory directly by farmers, both small and large, from Palakkad, Idukki, Thrissur and Wayanad. A kilogram of jackfruit seeds was priced at Rs 25.
P Joseph from Wayanad says, “I am a small-scale farmer and there are a few jackfruit trees on my farm. Usually, the fruits are used for domestic purposes only. The excess is wasted every year as jackfruit doesn’t get good rates in the market. Last year, I collected the seeds from all the fruits, about 30 kg, and took them to Holy Cross. I was able to make a small income from something that generally remains unused.”
Jaimy says that there are eight full-time employees in the industry and eight more of them join during peak season. “All of them are neighbourhood women who were homemakers, like me. It was my desire to provide employment to at least a few women while starting this enterprise. I hope to expand production soon, thus giving jobs to many more of them,” says the entrepreneur.
The products are sold at a price range of Rs 25 to Rs 450, based on the quantity and ingredients used. Jaimy says that even though no preservatives are added, all the products have a shelf life of one year.
Jaimy says, “I got an opportunity to be a part of the Agri Conclave arranged by the Agricultural University of Thrissur. I received a grant of Rs 25 lakh from the conclave and was selected to the team of five agri-entrepreneurs to meet the Prime Minister last month. This was a great experience and we got more customers after the event.”
“Even though we faced a fallback because of COVID, the brand is doing well now. We hope to add more machinery and widen the production within a year,” she says.
Jack Fresh’s products are available in retail outlets in all districts of Kerala. They also deliver orders to any part of the world.
To order or for queries, contact 8547211254.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; Photo Credits: Jaimy Saji, YouTube/Sanchari Travel World.