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  • Ian Gray

Coconut innovation in Bali

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Gede Wahyudi Antara, known as Wahyu, is General Manager of the UD Restu DME Unit at Tabanan in Bali. Wahyu’s main responsibility is with sales & marketing and overseeing the supervisor who is responsible for VCO production.

Wahyu was born into a coconut farming family and spent his childhood in the village. He helped his parents to plant rice, coconut, cacao, and banana. Wahyu’s upbringing gained him a deep empathy for the coconut tree and its uses within Balinese ceremony, food culture and traditions. He also believes it is important to innovate to maximise the usage of coconut as a source of food, healthcare and many other sustainable products.

In 2005 Wahyu graduated from university with a major in Business Management. He worked in sales and marketing for a baking ingredient company and then worked on a cruise ship as a room steward. It all changed in 2016 when his best friend Mr Parwitha introduced him to Haigan Murray of the Coconut Knowledge Centre (CKC) who offered him the role of GM at UD Restu, a recently built DME Unit.

Wahyu’s first goal was becoming familiar with the production process for making VCO using the DME method, understanding the work environment, and getting to know the workers.He then developed a marketing strategy, to include labels & packaging, product catalogues & brochures, as well providing samples to potential target customers. The business model focuses on empowering women so they can support their families by offering opportunities to work in a safe, caring work environment.

In Bali there is great respect for the coconut and, whenever there is a ceremony, the nut and fronds are given as an offering at the temple. During these times each family growing coconut can make USD3000 annually by selling the nuts and fronds. The coconut itself is part of a special ceremony held every six months honouring plants called Tumpek Bubuh where a rice flour and coconut porridge is served. It’s a time to reflect on the importance of plants and preservation of the natural environment. During Tumpek Bubuh no-one can cut trees or pick fruit.

The area is excellent for growing coconuts and the tree itself gives many benefits. However, while growing up, palm oil was what Wahyu was familiar with for cooking. Palm oil is the cheaper and more affordable oil, but is unsustainable. Before palm oil the village always cooked with coconut oil (produced in small quantities by boiling the coconut milk and then collecting the remaining oil) but now it is only used in traditional dishes to maintain the original taste. Hopefully, in time and by raising awareness, the local community will gain a greater appreciation for the importance of utilising coconut as a sustainable alternative to palm oil for the environment, and for the health & wellbeing of the people.

UD Restu’s DME Unit operates as a small scale, village-based mini factory pressing coconut into oil – and including other value-added products like coconut shell charcoal and food from the coconut meal (press-cake). But that is not all. With the drop in oil sales due to Covid, Wahyu searched for additional income. Armed with the knowledge that the DME press could be utilised for other seeds and nuts, and with support & encouragement from his pharmacist wife, Wahyu introduced local Moringa seed and Candlenut into the production. The result is excellent, and sales are starting to increase.

Diversifying and creating exciting new products has opened the door to more opportunities in the market. In the future Wahyu plans to create more healthy food alternatives and natural cosmetics. This expansion will mean new opportunities for employment helping more people in his community.

Before Covid the DME Unit was operating seven days each week, pressing 30 litres per day (from two presses). Now it operates five days per week. There are eight operators.

The Coconut Knowledge Centre has opened Wahyu’s mind to the opportunities for a bright future for coconut products which are sustainable. The DME Unit also acts as a regional ‘showcase’ and has been visited by many interested parties from government and the private sector from around Indonesia. As a result, it has led to other DME Units being established over the past few years. Contributing his experience and passion to the Coconut Knowledge Centre’s mission to innovate and boost the coconut sector’s performance gives Wahyu much satisfaction and joy. He is proud to share his learned knowledge, to improve the economic opportunity for small holder farmers, and to provide an incentive for the replanting of coconut trees, which has been lacking due to the under-utilisation of the coconut.

You can view products produced by UD Restu on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

You can also read more about the Coconut Knowledge Center

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