Oil and Fuel from Jatropha and Pongamia Trees: Interview with Sreenivas Ghatty, Founder CEO, Tree Oils India Ltd., Melbourne -- by Willi Paul
Oil and Fuel from Jatropha and Pongamia Trees: Interview with Sreenivas Ghatty, Founder CEO, Tree Oils India Ltd., Melbourne -- by Willi Paul

"The Company intends to generate wealth out of the waste lands in sustainable and ethical manner. It proposes to supply eco-friendly fuel to the transport sector and organic manure to the farm sector. India imports 72 percent of crude oil for meeting domestic needs and the import bill for crude oil is currently around $14 billion per year. With the increased production and use of Biodiesel, the country will gradually reduce its dependence on huge imports of crude fossil oil and become self-sufficient in auto fuel in 20 years. The Company expects that its pioneering efforts would contribute to proliferation of Non-edible oil tree plantations and Biodiesel plants, resulting in reduction of import bill on account of fossil fuels and the consequent pollution. The integrated and self reliant approach adopted by the company, encompassing, all the activities, starting from Nursery to distribution of Biodiesel and effective utilization of Byproducts, such as Oil Cake and Glycerin would make it successful."

What ethical issues surround Tree Oils India Limited work?
  • In a hungry world, we need to produce more food and fuel.
  • Low cost and low input farming should reduce the risks and losses.
  • Value addition at the farm level should reduce the share of middlemen.
  • Regional and remote areas should become self sufficient in energy.
  • Biodiversity and ecological balance should lead to sustainable agriculture.

Are your Rural Energy Centres strictly private businesses?

Rural Energy Centres are socially responsible enterprises. They can be owned and managed by individuals, Self Help Groups, NGOs, Cooperatives and companies, privately or under public-private partnership or community ownership.

Can you explain the life cycle of the trees? What is harvested? When? Is there compost?

The estimated economic life of Jatropha is 50 years. It starts flowering after one year and may mature in 3 to 5 years, depending upon the agro climatic conditions. The seeds are harvested four or five times in a year, during monsoon period. Leaves are shed after the rainy season and they along with the pruned branches could be used for composting.

The estimated economic life of Pongamia is 100 years. It starts flowering after three to five years and may mature after 7 to 10 years, depending upon the genetic variation. The seeds are harvested once in a year, before summer. It is ever green tree and the pruned branches along with leaves before the rainy season could be used as green manure or for composting.

What is the local, regional and state government involvement, if any?

As of now, they are not involved. But, we expect the local government to provide community lands, state and federal governments to provide tax incentives, grants, subsidies and infrastructure such as roads.

Who are your laborers who work the plantations? Is there a union representing these workers?

The laborers are local unemployed people, who were migrating to nearby towns and cities earlier. There is no union representing them.

Is the price for marginal land now increasing as a result of your work with "oil from trees?"

Yes, it is increasing. Not only the price, but also the fertility, productivity and water retention capacity are on the increase.

How does the Integrated Sustainable Farm (TOIL) plan change as you go from country to country? Please give us examples.
  • TOIL focuses on local agro climatic, social and economic conditions and changes the plan to suit them.
  • In India, where land holdings are fragmented, we will go for out grower schemes and encourage the farmers to grow food crops and oil bearing trees with our technical and buy back support.
  • In Tanzania, our associate procured large tracts of uncultivated land to grow oil bearing trees and energy crops and provide local employment.
  • In Solomon Islands, our associate worked to revive the coconut plantation and mix it with our oil bearing trees, thus reviving the local economy.

What are the outstanding scientific issues that you need to solve?

Developing high quality genetic material that can perform in different agro climatic conditions along with the agronomic practices that minimize the risks and maximize the returns. We are domesticating wild species and need to address known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Connections -

Sreenivas Ghatty, Founder CEO
Tree Oils India Ltd.,
LinkedIn Profile
ghatty a gmail dot com