Turning trash into treasure
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Turning trash into treasure

Entrepreneur Pavida Kritasaran shows the power of upcycling by making healthy yoghurt from leftover coconuts

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Turning trash into treasure
The idea of Bicogurt was inspired by leftover coconuts. (Photos: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Pavida Kritasaran has suffered from itchy rashes for 15 years. Due to the rashes, she had to take steroids for years. Her unusual condition triggered an interest in macrobiotic foods and later organic food. Although she was careful with her diet, she still had rashes.

In 2016, Pavida had to call an ambulance because she experienced vertigo and low blood pressure. Although test results for her lung and heart were normal, she believed that something was wrong. When someone recommended she take a food intolerance test, Pavida followed the advice.

As a result of the test, Pavida discovered she suffers from food intolerance which causes a physical reaction. These foods include normal items such as oranges, guavas, egg whites, kimchi, kombucha, ice cream, bread and pizza. The list of items she is intolerant of includes yeast, which makes her avoid seasoning in her diet. The doctor advised Pavida to replace manufactured seasoning with natural ingredients such as lemon, salt, and natural sugar instead of refined sugar.

The doctor told her that eating foods with a short shelf life helps people have a longer lifespan, while eating foods with a long shelf life leads to a shorter lifespan. 

“Natural food cannot last long. The doctor told me that if I wanted to recover, I had to eat freshly cooked food.”  

The food intolerance test results indicated that Pavida could drink organic coconut water, which happened to be her favourite beverage. She drank it often and established a connection with the owner of some organic coconut farms. During a visit to one of these farms, she was surprised to see a pile of leftover coconuts.

Pavida Kritasaran, founder of Bicogurt.

“Coconuts aged six months and one week sell well since the coconut is soft and the water is sweet. However, coconuts that are six months and two weeks old are too hard, so farmers keep only the coconut water and throw away the shells. I wanted to find a use for the leftover coconut, so I asked the doctor if I could make yoghurt with coconut to consume myself, and the doctor encouraged me to do so.”

After consulting her doctor and receiving a list of probiotic bacteria in the Bifidobacterium group, Pavida chose six strains listed in Announcement No.346 of the Ministry of Public Health. She made a homemade probiotic fermented coconut yoghurt called Bicogurt from the leftover coconuts, coconut water, coconut sugar and six chosen probiotic bacteria. The yoghurt is available in two formulas — Strong, which boosts the immune system; In The Mood, which improves the neurotransmitter and anti-inflammatory system; and Vegan Lemon Curd, which is a prebiotic coconut dessert.     

The story of Bicogurt and how to use leftover coconuts is displayed at Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) as part of the “Waste To Health Showcase”, which was originally presented at Bangkok Design Week (BKKDW) in February. The first exhibition was a bit different from the current showcase as it offered samples of Bicogurt. Pavida said many people became customers after BKKDW.  

“My goal is to show visitors that there are many ways to manage food waste. You do not have to be a manufacturer to handle food waste. Any ordinary person can do this. There is an abundance of information about organic food sources. I decided to exhibit at ‘Waste To Health Showcase’ at TCDC because I believe that visitors who come to TCDC are my target customers. The details of making Bicogurt takes time to understand and visitors at TCDC can learn about it, making the exhibition useful for them,” explained Pavida.

charcoal from coconut shell, ashes and coconut dust.

In addition to promoting managing food waste, Pavida added information about regenerative agriculture. She explained that regenerative agriculture is important because many studies abroad have found that nutrition in today’s rice is lower than in the past due to unhealthy soil. Therefore, it is necessary to regenerate the soil.

“Regenerative agriculture is related to the circular economy since farmers use leftover products like coconut husk to cover the top of the soil. This helps to retain moisture in the soil. Charcoal from coconut shells is mixed with soil to improve its quality, increase airflow and retain moisture. If the soil becomes fertile, fungi, bacteria, worms, Glomerida and other small creatures can live in the soil. These creatures help to improve the ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture takes time to establish, but once the system is in place, farmers will spend less than on chemical farming,” Pavida said.

Bicogurt does not only help Pavida improve her health and earn money, it also helps farmers to earn an income of over 50,000 baht a year from leftover coconuts. In the past, the farmers lost space of 200m² each year as dumping grounds for leftover coconuts. After working with Pavida since June 2020, the farmers do not have to waste any space on the farm.

“Since there are no more leftover coconuts, we were able to cut 125kg of methane gas per year. Although farmers initially said 125kg is not much, we should help the environment as much as we can. Now, farmers understand the importance of reducing greenhouse gas,” said Pavida.

In order to use more leftover coconuts, Pavida has created additional products. She worked with a chef to create a plant-based dish, Calamari Never Dies, which uses thick coconut meat as a substitute for calamari. Pavida said the recipe will provide healthy fat and fibre with fewer calories and tastes similar to calamari. She also created recipes for organic sauces and organised a taste-testing event at TCDC Common last Sunday.

Bicogurt: Strong, Bicogurt: In The Mood, and Vegan Lemon Curd.

“I believe organic sauces are blue ocean products. I hope that the recipes will reach local communities. It is exciting to see sauces made from local ingredients so that consumers will have more choices,” she said.

After two years of Bicogurt, positive feedback makes Pavida proud. One of the most impressive cases was Ann, who suffered from bad breath for a decade. Ann was told that incomplete defecation caused toxins to accumulate in the intestines. Ann had consulted medical doctors and traditional Chinese and Thai doctors, but her bad breath could not be cured. After she took Bicogurt daily for three months, it helped her bad breath disappear.

Pavida said: “I am proud to provide knowledge I gained from my sickness. I felt like paying it forward since I received information about the doctor and food intolerance test from someone else. I then created Bicogurt which became a business and solved the problem of leftover coconuts for farmers. I am happy to help people improve their bowel movements and people who have cancer can now enjoy vegan lemon curd as dessert since some of them were advised to not consume refined sugar. It is nice to bring food waste into food production as well as to improve the environment in farms and reduce methane gas.”

“Waste To Health Showcase” runs at TCDC, Creative Space, 5th floor, until May 28. Admission is free. For more information, visit facebook.com/tcdc.thailand.

'Waste To Health Showcase' was created to promote food waste management.

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