BENGALURU: A PhD in digital image processing is a long way from allied agricultural activities, but in a strange way, that is what this former lecturer ended up doing by setting up a company that can turn any fruit or vegetable into tasty chips.
Twenty-eight-year-old Bharadwaj Karanth’s company, Suvidha Foods and Beverages, procures fruits and vegetables directly from farmers and processes them into chips and dry fruits. Until two years ago, Karanth taught at a college in Sringeri, his hometown. “I realised that many of my students were moving out of here, leaving their parents behind because there are no employment opportunities for them. I have a PhD in a subject related to artificial intelligence, but to start a company in that field here... there is a shortage of skilled workers and power outages are common,” he said.
It hit him then that farmers found it extremely difficult to access markets, and that if there was some value addition to their farm produce, it would be a win-win situation for all. Two years ago, he founded Suvidha, which employs 18 people - mostly students who have an opportunity to remain in their hometown, and makes chips out of practically any fruit or vegetable.
“At present, we have banana, jackfruit, chikoo, beetroot, ladies finger, garlic, carrot, sweet potato, papaya chips and more,’’ he said. The first step is to remove the moisture content from the fruit or vegetable, followed by vacuum frying, which needs very little oil. Karanth says the whole process is natural, and that no colour additives are used.
“The nutritional value remains intact. It tastes just as fresh as the fruit (or vegetable), but it’s just crispy,” he said. For seasonal fruits such as jackfruit, the company has a cold storage facility so that production can continue throughout the year. Karanth plans on expanding into manufacturing powdered spices, for which his home district Chikkamagaluru is famous. Other plans on the anvil include the sale of products made from medicinal plants such as Amruthballi, which are abundant in the Western Ghats.