The country’s coconut subsector has made a significant milestone following the development of a new product manufactured from coconut fibre by CocoGrow Limited, an SME based in Kwale County.
The SME is currently working with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) through a collaborative agreement with the second National Research Chair Program on: “Manufacturing on Technological Innovations for the Productivity and efficiency of the Coconut Value Chains.”
The Research Chair program is supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI).
According to the CEO of Cocogrow, Mr. James Kapombe, the new Coir ropes products going by the brand name, KoiR by CocoGrow, have been manufactured from bristle coir fibres and are ideal for scaffolding, packaging, gardening, horticulture, matting, décor among others.”
Mr. Kapombe further states that KoiR is a biodegradable two- ply twine, made from machine twisted bristle coir fibers.
The fibers are spun by machine and converted into ropes, which are available in 4kg and 8kg spools.
Other specifications of the CocoGrow Coir ropes are: Runnage is 100-150m/kg, Tensile strength 27kg, with a thickness of 4mm-8mm.
Coir, a fibrous material found between the hard internal shell and outer coat of coconut fruit, is a natural fibre extracted from the outer husk of coconut and is used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses.
The brown coco husks are mechanically processed into two main products: coir pith and coir fiber.
Other features of the coir ropes include; resistance to damage by salt water, are strong and water resistant.
The SME produces approximately 350kg of coir fiber daily and has been exploring ways to develop sustainable use of the fiber being produced.
This aspiration has now been actualized with the SME’s recent acquisition of an automated yarn spinning machine from India.
Mr. Kapombe, said, the machine will be used to convert fiber into ropes, a move he says, “Will help the country to achieve a circular economy and a closed loop system for resources.”
The SME, currently conducting a two- months training for machine operators, has “established a collaboration agreement with the Manufacturing Research Chair, which has a dedicated Research Stream on Textile and Fibre, led by Prof. John Githaiga of Moi University,” says, Prof. (Eng) Bernard Ikua, the Research Chair holder and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) at JKUAT.
He has welcomed the manufacture of coir ropes as good news and positive milestone by CocoGrow, further assuring the SME of support from the project team.
Prof. Ikua noted that one of the thematic research topics at postgraduate level under the Research Chair project is “fibre extraction and characterization from green coconut husks waste for industrial application.”
Referring to the present collaboration agreement with the Manufacturing Research Chair, Mr Kapombe noted that Cocogrow looks forward to work with the research team “in developing new product lines and to improve existing processes.”
He appeals to the County governments “to promote the growth of youth-led SMEs by equipping them with necessary skills to run enterprises and supporting them financially.
“We intend to train artisans both youth and women in the community in doormat making so that they can create employment for themselves,” adds Mr. Kapombe.
He further said, “CocoGrow aims to make use of available resources to create shared value and support the growth of local manufacturing ecosystem.”
As a startup company, CocoGrow was established in 2018 to provide eco solutions for the horticultural industry and upcycles coconut husk waste collected from smallholder farmers in Kwale, South of the Kenyan Coast.
Despite efforts the SME has put in the sector, “The machinery and inputs we use for rope production are not locally available,” Kapombe, said.
The core business of the SME is the production of growing media for plant propagation in the horticulture industry and is exploring other ways of utilizing fiber, besides rope making.
The start-up aspires to make good use of the high amount of coconut husk waste produced at the Kenyan Coast and the huge need for coco peat in the horticulture industry.
Although a ready market for coco peat exists, the current local production cannot satisfy the demand given that most of the coco peat used in Kenya, is imported from India and Sri Lanka.
But with CocoGrow’s latest entry into the production of Coir fibres, together with expert interventions of the Research Chair at JKUAT, the scenario is bound to change.
The researchers drawn from JKUAT, Moi, and Multimedia universities, and other stakeholders, are working with SMEs at the Kenyan coast on specific tasks including; designing, developing and deploying equipment and technologies to improve productivity and quality targeting diverse coconut value chains.
They include; safe value added food, cosmetics and textile products, biomass and energy, as well as supporting SMES in the coconut sub sector to become fully-grown industries.