Suresh K. Raju, a planter in Idukki district of Kerala, has nearly 50 acres under cardamom cultivation. The harvest goes on for almost nine months in a year and the fresh cardamom should be dried within a day or two.
Mr. Raju uses both firewood and diesel to operate the dryer. “Since the moisture content is high in cardamom, dryers are used. There is shortage of firewood, which is expensive too. It costs about ₹8 to dry a kilogram of cardamom in the dryer,” he says.
This problem is faced by several cardamom planters in the district, which is among the largest cardamom producing areas in the country. Further, when 600 kg of cardamom is dried, the weight comes down to nearly 140 kg, reducing it to just one fourth.
Carpro Technologies, an incubatee at PSG — Science and Technology Entrepreneurial Park in Coimbatore, has come up with a solution to help the cardamom planters.
Uthayakumar, one of the founders of Carpro, says the company has developed a machine that removes the moisture using “low heat dehumidified dry air technology with unique airflow system”. The machine runs on electricity and can dry about 500 kg of cardamom in 14 to 18 hours. (The firewood dryer takes 20 to 22 hours for 600 kg of cardamom.)
Uthayakumar and P.B. Surendran, another founder of the company, came out with the first machine in 2016 after three years of research. However, it was not successful and they continued working on different technologies.
The challenge was to remove the surface, inner, and core moisture to a specific level without affecting the colour of cardamom.
The new machine is a complete unit with multiple chambers that removes the moisture in two stages. “Colour is important for cardamom. We conducted 25 trials at several plantations in Idukki and took the feedback from the planters. It was successful as the properties were retained and the weight did not reduce much even as the moisture content reduced. We plan to launch the machine for commercial sale next month,” says Mr. Uthayakumar.
“Turmeric cultivation is high in Erode and farmers sun-dry the turmeric. We plan a trial run of the machine for turmeric by joining hands with a farmer producer company. We are trying to see if the machine can be used to dry vegetables, fruits, and herbs. This will increase the shelf life of the produce, benefiting farmers,” he adds. It can be connected to generators or solar panels so that power disruptions do not affect operation of the machine.
“We will try using solar energy and reducing the time and energy consumed during the trials for turmeric,” Mr. Uthayakumar said.