1. Success Story

Pearl Farming: This Farmer Grows Pearl in Buckets; Earns in Lakhs

Ayushi Raina
Ayushi Raina
farmer in Kerala grows pearl in buckets

If you assumed pearls could only be found in oysters in the ocean, think again because this farmer from Kasargod, Kerala has successfully produced pearls in a pond in his backyard.

Yes, you read that correctly. KJ Mathachan, 65, has been cultivating pearls from freshwater mussels supplied from rivers in the Western Ghats for the last two decades. These mussels are nurtured, and they may generate up to 50 buckets of pearls each year, earning him up to Rs.4.5 lakh every 18 months. The majority of them are sent to Australia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Switzerland.

So, how did he pull it off?

Cultivation of Pearls for 21 Years

Mathachan was a professor in the telecommunications department at the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when he was offered a job as Arabic to English translator for the ARAMCO Oil Company in China.

"I visited the Danshui Fisheries Research Center in Wuxi, China, during my visit. Fisheries had always piqued my attention, so I decided to look into the various courses they offered, which is when I discovered the pearl cultivation diploma they were providing. This was clearly something that very few people had investigated in India, so I figured why not give it a try?" Mathachan elucidates.

Mathachan resigned his job and relocated to China to pursue the diploma a few weeks later. He finished the training six months later and returned to Kerala in 1999 to produce pearls in his own garden.

"It was a hasty choice, and many people criticised it, but I had a strong gut sense that this type of business was unique and would absolutely work out "he says

Mathachan began collecting freshwater river mussels supplied from Maharashtra or derived from rivers originating in the Western Ghats and began treating them in buckets in his backyard.

Mathachan produced 50 buckets of pearls after only 18 months of cultivation!

"I had invested about Rs.1.5 lakh as an initial investment, and in only a year's time, I had produced pearls valued up to 4.5 lakh, giving me a profit of Rs.3 lakh," Mathachan adds.

 

Mathachan's pearl farming business has thrived since then, and he has also been granted permission to teach training to people who want to establish their own pearl farming business.

But if not for oysters, how does one produce pearls in buckets? Mathachan tells us how.

Process of Pearl Cultivation

"Pearls are classified into three types: artificial, natural, and cultured. I've been producing cultured pearls for more than 21 years, and they're the simplest to grow since freshwater mussels are easily accessible in India," Mathachan reveals.

Mussels obtained from rivers are gently opened and a pearl nucleus is placed inside. The mussel is then completely submerged in water (at temperature ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius) in a mesh container containing bacteria to feed on. Over the course of 18 months, the nucleus forms a pearl sac that collects calcium carbonate from mussel shells. The nucleus coats itself with up to 540 layers of covering, resulting in beautiful pearls.

All of the pearls collected on Mathachan's farm are sold to Australia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland, where cultivated pearls are in high demand.

"The majority of pearls sold in the Indian market are artificial - they appear 'authentic' due to a synthetic pearl covering." This is why they are so inexpensive here. A genuine pearl would cost approximately Rs.360/carat and Rs.1800/gram,” according to Mathachan.

Mathachan has constructed a bulk production tank in his backyard.

According to Libin Kurian, a YouTuber who has visited Mathachan's pearl farm,' "the tank is nearly 40 meters long, 15 meters wide, and 6 meters deep." I've never seen a business idea that innovative, and the work put into setting it up is truly incredible. Aside from that, Mathachan has managed to produce vanilla, coconuts, and indigenous mango types on his remaining property."

 

Despite suffering a major stroke in 2018, Mathachan has been maintaining the cultivation with the assistance of a few local farmers.

Along with the cultivation, he has begun taking sessions for those who have showed an interest in pearl farming, as well as producing items from mussel shells and pearls.

Taking Online Classes during Lockdown

While business has been slow for the past several months owing to the lockdown, Mathachan has been able to shift his classes online and has received a lot of attention for his innovative business plan.

"When I initially heard about pearl cultivation, I thought it was hard to believe," says Asha John, a Kochi-based housewife. "However, after visiting his farm, I saw how realistic it was, and after taking his classes, I fully grasped the process and was able to start on a modest scale."

Ardra Sahadeva, a final-year BCom student who has been attending Mathachan's classes, feels the same way.

"Over the course of 28 days, Mathachan sir explains every element of the procedure, from where to acquire raw materials to the sanitary precautions to be taken throughout growth. My lockdown has been extremely fruitful, Thanks to him," she explains.

Mathachan's pearl farming has grown in popularity over the years, and as a result, numerous students from universities around Kerala, as well as the Karnataka fisheries department, have visited his pearl farm. He has also given many classes at Bengaluru's University of Agricultural Sciences.

"I would have been like every other person in my city if I had continued with my career in Saudi Arabia, but I chose to try something different. At the time, pearl production was an unexplored sector in India, and I was fortunate enough to decide to pursue it, and it is still prospering," he concludes.

If you want to know more about his pearl farming then you can contact him on +91 94460 89736.

Like this article?

Hey! I am Ayushi Raina. Did you liked this article and have suggestions to improve this article? Mail me your suggestions and feedback.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters