Founder story for jaggery technology development
Founder Dr. Vishal Sardeshpande, an IIT Bombay energy engineer with more than two decades of industrial & research experience, hails from a farmer’s family located in a small town in central Maharashtra. In the year 2007, just after finishing his doctorate, he visited a jaggery processing plant in central Maharashtra. Despite natural sweeteners with health benefits, he was very upset to see the use of various harmful chemicals (clarifying agents and artificial colour) and the unhygienic process for jaggery manufacturing.
This has challenged engineer and innovator in him to look for better options for hygienic processing. To explore this topic further, he visited jaggery processing plants in various areas and interacted with farmers and manufacturers. The major concerns reported were availability of skilled labor, fuel sufficiency, consistent quality and shelf-life of jaggery. Based on input received from jaggery manufacturers, he has methodically investigated jaggery plant operations and published research articles in international journals and also worked with International research in 2010-14.
He was not just happy with intellectual investigations and academic research but wanted to find a novel implementable solution for jaggery processing. The founder strongly believes in the “Small is Beautiful” philosophy of E. F. Schumacher for creating resource-efficient, appropriate technologies. This has inspired him to write a patent for a unique small scale jaggery processing plant design with hygienic and resource efficient operation in-year 2011. He worked with two jaggery pilot plant installations in 2011-2016 (while working in corporate).
In order to demonstrate his concept to the market, he left the company and started full-time work on a jaggery processing plant from 2016. With the help of a few friends and funds from saving, he designed and manufactured a pilot demonstration plant. The pilot demonstration plant was installed at one of his friend’s facilities at Loni Kalbhor, Pune in Jul-2018. The plant was initially operated for water boiling (instead of sugarcane juice) to establish all the scientific principles for combustion, boiling and heat transfer. As a plant deals with efficient use of resources, the name is coined as ‘Resource Efficient Jaggery Processing (REJP)’ plant. There were considerable efforts on understanding protocols for chemical-free jaggery processing. The use of chemicals is required mainly due to poor process control and empirical operations. The major sources for unhygienic processing are primitive plant layout and rudimentary plant design.
The plant started producing jaggery from Jan-2019 and produced more than 3000 kg of chemical-free jaggery during trail runs till May-2019. The jaggery produced was well received during sampling and test marketing. The founder wanted to understand the market requirement for a small-scale plant. He wrote an article in ‘Agrown’ newspaper for farmers. There was an overwhelming response. He received more than 200 calls expressing the need for small scale technology. As part of the marketing and outreach effort, the founder conducted product promotion workshops in Nov-2019 and received the first commercial order in Dec-2019. With the commercial order, the founder streamlined all the manufacturing drawings and engineering standardization of the plant. The plant was delivered in March-2020, before the founder’s team commissioned the plant Covid-19 strike. The plant was successfully commissioned in Jun-2020, but there was considerable setback for the economy. Despite a setback in the economy, the founder received two plant orders in FY20-21. The founder and cofounder felt a need for a new full-scale demonstration plant. The full-scale operating plant was commissioned at Pirangut, Pune in Jan-2022. This plant is acting as a training, demonstration and confidence-building setup for future customers. The cofounder is involved in the manufacturing and selling of jaggery produced from the new full-scale plant.