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When waste means business

An agri-business in Cambodia tackles the issue of oversupply of mangoes by converting them into dried fruit snacks

Photo of Amruta Byatnal

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This January I had the opportunity to work with Kirirom Food Production, an agri-business run by women in Cambodia. As a part of a student consulting team  from Cornell University, I got to see first hand how surplus mangoes were converted into a healthy dried snack in Cambodia's Kirirom region, thereby providing employment to people in the countryside.  Here is the story of how Kirirom aims to attain environmental sustainability by utilizing excessive mangoes, in their own words: 

"At Kirirom, we believe all parts of the mango can be used productively across all seasons. We discovered some of the difficulties farmers were facing in the industry. The fertile land produced more mangoes than the market could absorb, and the oversupply led to large amounts of spoilage and unnecessary waste. Prices of mangoes plummeted to near worthlessness during the harvest season which translated into decreased incomes for farmers. Determined to alleviate the situation, we invested in a dried fruit manufacturing plant. By processing the unsold fresh mangoes, we aim to stabilize farmers’ incomes during harvest season. Today, to reduce waste, we compost all byproducts, like skins and seeds."

In conversations with mango farmers, we learnt how only "perfect" mangoes get picked up for export whereas "lesser" mangoes that don't stand up to aesthetic standards end up being wasted. We loved all the varieties of dried mango Kirirom was producing, and wondered what it would take to promote dried fruits as a healthy snack.

See more here: http://www.kfp.com.kh/

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Preserving fruits is an age-old tradition is many parts of the world, but dry fruits don't enjoy the same popularity. Will social labels on these products help utilize fruits that would have gone to waste?

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a journalist turned international development practitioner with a passion in agriculture, food and cultures. Strategy through story-telling is my new muse.

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  • An Individual

11 comments

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Photo of marco mihambo

Hello Amruta Byatnal! thanks for sharing your innovative and promising ideas .....I would like to request you if you don't mind to pass through my idea under feedback stage and advise accordingly for further improvement from the title, its modes if operation and others e.t.c

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Photo of Ehi

Excellent piece Amruta. Thank you for sharing the article. 

I've thought of what a great idea it'll be to dry fruits using solar to reduce the carbon footprint, use up otherwise wasted fruits, provide steady income for farmers and use the waste for biomass in parts of Africa BUT I haven't seen much on effective solar dehydration just yet.  

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Photo of Ashwin Goutham Gopi

This is a great idea. I have a food dehydrator at home. One of these things: https://www.amazon.com/Presto-06300-Dehydro-Electric-Dehydrator/dp/B008H2OELY/ref=lp_1090752_1_1?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1470667665&sr=1-1 . It's really cheap and useful. Whenever I feel that I've bought too many fruits and that I can't eat them all before they go bad, I just slice them, add some lemon juice, and dehydrate them. Then, they last forever!

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Photo of Amruta Byatnal

That's great! Do you feel the need to add extra sugar, or do they taste fine without any of it? 

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Photo of Ashwin Goutham Gopi

You don't need to add sugar to it. The lemon juice is to prevent the fruit from oxidizing and turning brown.

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Photo of marco mihambo

THIS IS ONE OF THE GREAT ARTICLE

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Photo of Amruta Byatnal

Thank you!

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Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

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Photo of Amruta Byatnal

Thank you! :)

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Photo of Jessica Aguirre

Hello Amruta,

Thanks for sharing your experience at Kirirom and being inspired by my post. I do see great parallels with both stories. Indeed, there is a need to go beyond aesthetics, expiration dates, and levels of ripeness. We should strive for a circular economy producing no waste or pollution.



Your story reminded me of other opportunities that are falling short to reach its full potential due to lack of resources/knowledge/etc. For instance, banana waste in Ecuador could be used in a biomass power plant and it could potentially cover up to 55% of the region’s electricity demand. “For every ton of marketable fruit, the sector produces two tons of inedible biomass. In addition to that, between eight and 20 per cent of fruit has to be thrown out as it doesn’t meet required quality standards.”


More details here: http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2016/may/banana-energy.cfm

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Photo of Amruta Byatnal

Hi Jessica Aguirre ,

Thanks for your comment. And yes, it seems like the infrastructure in our countries needs to be geared towards processing the waste - and business has a huge role to play in it.