A couple of reasons led Narayana Peesapati (ex-scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Hyderabad) to develop edible cutlery. It was aboard a flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad that inspiration struck. He saw a passenger using the khakra (Gujarati savoury) like a spatula to scoop out shrikhand. For this post-graduate in forestry management who had always been wary of plastic cutlery, it was a point to ponder. Mr. Narayana wasn’t comfortable with what he encountered on a railway station a few years back. He says, “I ordered Idly-Sambhar in a small restaurant and the waiter served me food with plastic spoons. To my utmost horror, I noticed that the spoon was greasy and it was not even rinsed properly.” “I felt even more compelled to introduce a healthier alternative after that incident” he added, reports Metro India .
Narayana explains how plastic, a petroleum by-product, is more harmful to the human body. The presence of several toxins in plastic enhance the chances of chemicals entering the human system. Plastic cutlery is hazardous not only to the body but also to the environment at large. “I tried to make a three-dimensional spoon by putting chapati dough between two spoons. But it got soggy very soon, especially when I put it in water,” says Narayana. He began working on different combinations of flour and finally developed one that would remain firm for more than 20 minutes even in hot liquid.
One of the main ingredients in this combination is jowar (sorghum), which is an environment-friendly crop. It does not require as much water as rice and wheat. Vegetable pulp – spinach, beetroot and carrot – are used to add colour. “For the first two years, my kitchen was the first laboratory. The next year, I did serious research, including devising machinery to produce commercially,” recalls Mr. Narayana. It cost him more 60 lakhs to develop the prototype machines, moulds and executing a pilot run. He had to sell his homes in Hyderabad and Baroda to finance his passion.
Narayana has introduced a whole range of cutlery as well as jowar based snack foods under the brand name Bakey’s Foods of which he is the MD. The total investment has been nearly Rs 3 crore for the first phase of production – five tonnes a day. He has received funding from investors. “It’s such a huge market that the total jowar produced in the country would be insufficient to cater to even 10 per cent of the market. We may have to import jowar or ensure that more farmers shift to jowar,” he says, reports India Today.
Narayana was invited to give a talk at TEDx VIT-Vellore for his innovation on sustainability. He was selected as GREEN HERO by Wellspun Renewables in 2015.
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