As the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on resilient food systems and sustainable business practices, many horticulture companies are viewing these challenging times as an opportunity to implement more sustainable solutions. Evergreen Exports is one such company and specializes in the production of coco peat horticultural substrates. While other companies also sell coco peat products, Evergreen Exports maintains that its products are of a superior quality due to the uniformity of the substrates.
According to Mohamed Raashid, General Manager- Business Development, “Evergreen Exports manufactures the product; the company does not source the goods from other facilities and other places to fulfill an order. Let’s say our competitors were to fulfill an order amounting to two shipping containers, they might source the material from multiple factories and consolidate it to make the shipment. The problem is that few manufacturers conform to stringent measures to maintain electrical conductivity, pH, moisture and impurities in the final product.”
Globally, peat-based products are considered premium substrates for horticultural production. However, the sustainability of peat-based products has been called into question, particularly in regions with limited peat reserves but other available materials, such as coco coir and pith. Raashid says, “Evergreen Exports is offering a renewable resource that has a high water retention capacity and good pH levels which are neither alkaline nor acidic, so the nutrients are easily absorbed by the roots. An ideal growing media should be inert, retain water, have reasonable porosity and provide stability to the roots. Coco peat stands out among other substrates in these attributes.”
"This system provides three times more plants than traditional plantations. In fact, traditional yields are from 20,000 plants per hectare and with this system this could grow to 60,000 per ha".
Evergreen Exports’ core product is the LOW EC export quality coco peat. The company recently invested in equipment to manufacture coco chips due to the chips’ significantly higher water retention capacity and air-filled porosity. The coco chips are then mixed with coco peat products at ratios of 80:20 or 70:30. The company currently manufactures the LOW EC export quality cocopeat in 5-kilogram blocks but plans to offer a wider variety of sizes in the near future. With respect to expanding their product line, Raashid explained that the company’s expansion plans are based on growers’ needs.
“We don’t add product line just for the sake of competing with others, but we make sustainable progress by making products of substantial benefits to the horticultural industry. We produce only low-EC premium coco peat because it is a better soil conditioner and rooting media. I keep reiterating the quality of the product because that is our main focus; we pay great attention to ensuring that the optimal parameters are attained.”
Effects of the pandemic
When asked about Evergreen Exports’ response to the pandemic, Raashid presented a rather optimistic perspective of how the pandemic has brought many people’s attention back to their food systems.
“The lock down period has actually shifted people’s interests from technological advancement to being curious about food, farms and growing vegetables in a sustainable manner. This is good news for the coco peat industry and with many people taking to farming and agriculture in the western world, the coco peat industry in India has a bright future.”
As the company looks to European and North American markets, Evergreen Exports with their people having decades of experience in the coco peat industry, has aligned its quality control program with those of European and North America. According to Raashid, “Evergreen Exports only makes products that are export-worthy, and therefore quality control is aligned with the end requirements of our importers and the destination countries.”