One of the reasons we love coconut is because of it’s incredibly flexibility. Outside of the food industry, coconuts have gained prominence in industries as diverse as home furnishings, kitchenware, and indoor farming. Even more, these products are often derived from what is otherwise trash, and fits the bill of “making something out of nothing.”
In coconut ingredient manufacturing (such as coconut flour, desiccated coconut, etc), a worker splits the coconut nut in half with a small ax-like tool. Once the meat is harvested, the shells are discarded. But on our last trip to Vietnam, we discovered something fascinating. These enterprising farmers use a buzzsaw to perfectly cut the coconut in half. The meat is still harvested, but instead of throwing out the shells, workers clean, polish and sell the shells as novelty bowls. The company Coconut Bowls is one such example selling these bowls. Ingenious. Instead of discarding these shells, these shells get put to use as bowls, and consumers around the world can pick them up for ~ $13/bowl.
Ask any Indoor and hydroponic farmers and they will have likely heard of coconut coir. What is it? Found inside the outer coat, coconut coir is the fibrous coat found outside of the brown shell. These fibers are categorized as brown or white. The brown coir is found in ripe coconuts and is stronger but less flexible, while the white coir is found in pre-ripe coconuts and is less strong but far more flexible. Epic Gardening has a brief primer on the production process of coconut coir. In hydroponic growing, coconut coir has wonderful water retention capabilities, environmentally friendly growing medium that provides a quality alternative to traditional soils.
The final use case I’ll share today took me by surprise as I was walking down the street in Manhattan, NY. I saw a sign for Coco Mat and was immediately intrigued. Their flagship mattress is made from a host of natural materials including coconut fiber. This Greek based hospitality and home furnishing company promotes that all natural mattresses, free of chemical additives or retardants), improve the overall quality of sleep.
These examples highlight how coconuts can be used outside of the food ingredient world. Indeed, organizations such as the Coconut Research Institute are constantly on the look out for new use cases. By discovering these new applications, not only does the appeal of coconut grow, but hopefully local farmers will be able to take advantage and diversify their incomes by using every part of the illustrious coconut.