NATIONAL

Research scholar files for patent on Indian version of Tequila

Sangati Chennakesava Reddy shows the trunk portion of Agave albomarginata plant.— Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar

Sangati Chennakesava Reddy shows the trunk portion of Agave albomarginata plant.— Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar  

Thanks to the ‘spirited’ efforts of a young scientist, the Indian variant of the Mexican Tequila will soon be a reality.

The pith portion of ‘Naara Kalabanda’ or ‘Kittha Naara’ (for the biologists, it is Agave albomarginata of agavaceae family) has a high starch content, which can be used to prepare ethanol.

While ‘Agave americana’, which grows wildly in Mexico, is used to make alcoholic drink tequila, the potential of its poor Indian cousin has remained underexplored. Though some local farmers grow it to extract gel from its leaves, the pith portion is seldom noticed.

Sangati Chennakesava Reddy, a research scholar in food technology at Sri Venkateswara University, has found that the plant has high starch deposits in its collar zone (the trunk portion between the roots and the leaves), which can be extracted and distilled to prepare pure alcohol in a cost-effective manner.

The plant offers a high yield of 45 per cent alcohol with high pungency, which is suitable for consumption. “When we arrive at 99 p.c. purity after secondary distillation, it can even be used as an automobile fuel,” Mr. Chennakesava Reddy told The Hindu . He is currently in talks with a distiller for bulk procurement and production.

Findings validated

Further studies at the SV University’s DST-PURSE Centre validated his findings. “At 45 per cent, the alcohol content in this plant is much higher than the 10-13 per cent found in other plant sources,” confirmed D.V.R. Saigopal, coordinator of DST-PURSE programme and a professor of virology at SVU.

“The plant witnesses huge growth in two to three years and the pith portion alone grows half the size of a rice bag, weighing more than 100 kg,” says Shaik Kaleemullah, professor of agricultural engineering at SV Agricultural College, who is involved in the project.

However, the plant takes two years to grow and high starch can be extracted only from mature plants, which means more waiting time. Mallela Raveendra Reddy, an assistant professor of Food and Industrial Microbiology at ANGRAU College of Food Science and Technology, Pulivendula, also aided the study. Mr. Chennakesava Reddy’s application for a patent on his invention has been tentatively accepted.

Natural fence

This desert plant grows wildly in the arid Rayalaseema region and there is absolutely no need for water or fertilizers, no pest infestation and no fear of cattle grazing, thanks to its thorny leaves and sharp spikes.

The plant is currently used by local farmers as a natural fence along the contours of their orchards, but it has the potential to change the very economic face of the dry belt.



The pith portion of ‘Naara Kalabanda’ has a high starch content, which can be used to prepare ethanol



Recommended for you