The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture has chosen Areca Tea as the best Agriculture Start-Up of the year. Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu, presented the Agro Start-up Award to Nivedan Nempe, the founder of areca tea, at an award ceremony organized by ICAI in New Delhi. Areca tea had earlier received the Make in India award.
“Areca is an absolutely safe and healthy substance. All the clinical tests that areca was subjected to have substantiated this. Now, areca tea is getting national recognition, which only boosts the claim that it is not hazardous to health, and is safe to consume,” said Nivedan, a pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur from Mandagadde in Thirthahalli, Shivamogga.
"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’s 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, Karnataka State, 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 returning I started working in agro-based product development," he says.
According to Nivedan, the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Co-operative Limited (CAMPCO) has received an intermediate clinical report suggesting that areca isn’t dangerous, but on the contrary, is a life-saving substance. However, he refused to divulge details, as he said the organization had been awaiting a final report in two weeks, post which details will be made public. Emphasizing on the credibility of the report, he said it could also be submitted to the Supreme Court.
He said considering the health benefits of areca, his start-up had been receiving orders from various countries, with the highest response coming from the West Indies. He said his company will soon send a consignment of the product to the Netherlands. A team from the US will also visit his firm in the near future, he added. Nivedan said the tea is now being brought out in four flavours—lemon, ginger, mint and tulsi, in addition to the original variant.
Meanwhile, S R Sathishchandra, President, CAMPCO, allayed fears of a ban on areca, and called on cultivators to continue investing in the crop. He said the organization had been expecting an increase in the rate for areca by Rs 15. Currently, the market rate for the crop ranges from Rs 220-Rs 225.
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 natural for Nivedan to settle on this crop.
"Areca is considered a holy nut by some. Some others say it is 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.