Even as the Farm-to-Table trend catches on globally, a group of restaurants in Madurai have found a way to take it a step further. The Farm-to-Table trend in restaurants looks to source ingredients locally, to ensure that consumption can be ecologically sustainable. But what about the waste generated at such commercial establishments? That’s where the Madurai initiative comes in.As many as 30 hotels in the temple city — all members of the Madurai District Hotel Owners’ Association — have recently joined hands with the Madurai Corporation to use the waste generated by the establishments in manufacturing organic manure. The manure, in turn, is used to cultivate vegetables, organically, that are in turn used by the hotels. To this end an ‘Organic Enrichment Manure Factory in situ with Organic Farming’ has been set up over 5.5 acres of land at Masthanpatti in Madurai district.
Some of the hotels involved in the initiative include Hotel Heritage, Hotel Northgate, Amma Mess, Hotel Bilal as well as five hotels from Temple City Group. K T Greens India Private Limited, a company associated with the venture, released a video about the project that is going viral on social media.
The impetus for the project came from K Thirupathi, one of the directors of the Temple City Group of Hotels. Thirupathi is also Managing Director of K T Greens India Private Limited and is the Project Head of the Innovation Hotel Waste Recycling Project being undertaken by Madurai Corporation and Madurai District Hotels Association.Thirupathi, who has an MPharm degree and also teaches at a private pharmaceutical college in Madurai, said he was inspired to venture into organic farming after he learnt, during his research, that people could develop cancer due to the pesticides in vegetables they consume.After a series of trials and errors, he succeeded in setting up an organic farming site with a compost plant over 2.5 acres of land in 2016. “Initially I collected food wastes from three of our hotels and manufactured organic manure from it. Then I used the manure to cultivate vegetables in the farm,” he recollected. Instead of pesticides, he used ‘Panchagavya’ (a concoction made using products of the cow as well as other organic substances) to protect his crops from pests.
It was then Corporation Commissioner Sandeep Nanduri, who during a visit to the site, encouraged Thirupathi to expand the project. The Madurai Corporation supported the initiative by providing the land in Masthanpatti. Buoyed by the support and availability of land, Thirupathi convinced the 30 hotels to partner with him on the initiative in which Temple City Group of Hotels and Madurai Corporation split the costs and revenue 50-50.
At project uses machinery such as Bulk Waste Shredder, Organic Size Reducer and High Speed Pulverizer to produce the organic manure. “First the waste collected from the hotels is placed on a segregation table to see if there are any plastic wastes. After this, the waste is sent on a long conveyor belt to the organic shredder. Once the waste is shredded, it would be sent to a procession pit where it would be converted into organic manure,” Thirupathi explained. As part of the project, waste coconut water is also collected from hotels. “The coconut water and a spray is being used to convert these shredded food wastes into organic manure. This process would be completely odourless and it would take nearly 20 to 22 days to convert it into manure.”
A special team of employees, geared with t-shirt, cap, mask and gloves, collects the waste from the hotels between 9pm and 5am. The waste is collected in a special fully closed van purchased for this purpose. The organic manure is then used to cultivate vegetables at the farm. Currently the farm is growing ladies finger, tomato, drumstick, chilli, curry leaves, greens, banana trees, coconut trees, tapioca over 2.50 acres. “Even though the yield is lower in organic farming, the vegetables so cultivated are good for the health of people. The manure is sold for `20 per kg, organic seed packets of vegetables are sold for `20 per pack. Apart from this, all the varieties of organic vegetables which are cultivated in the farm are sold for `60 per kg to the public during all the seasons. There is a good response from the people for these organic vegetables and many people visit our old farm to purchase these vegetables,” noted, Thirupathi.
To ensure transparency in the process, CCTV cameras have been fixed in the plant and all the owners of the partnering hotels are able to witness the processes at the plant on their mobile phones.
Apart from using these organic vegetables at his hotels and selling it to the public, the vegetables will be sold at discount rates to the partnering hotels. “Currently we have the capacity to process 10 tonnes of hotel waste per day. As this initiative has turned out to be a success, we are currently upgrading the machines in the plant at Masthanpatti so we can process three tonnes of hotel wastes per hour,” Thirupathi said, adding that he hoped this project would serve as an example for other hotels and restaurants to emulate.