A BIT ABOUT US
Kokonut Pacific (Australia) works to raise the well-being of coconut communities through its Direct Micro Expelling (DME) technology to produce virgin coconut oil (VCO).
The company's mission is to provide simple, manually operated technology to families, farmers, and remote villages to improve the lives of their local community. Our motto, "Empowering and Bringing Hope", reflected today's "social enterprise" and "impact investment" concepts well before these terms were in common use.
In 2013 Kokonut Pacific activated its long-time ambition and registered the Niulife Foundation with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).
Sri Lanka has been called the land of "serendipity".
In 1976 Dr Dan Etherington, an Agricultural Economist, first visited the island nation to attend an international rubber conference. He took the opportunity to visit all the perennial crop research institutes: tea, rubber, coconut, and their down-stream processors. The monocrop tea and rubber industries with their single products held few surprises, but exposure to the coconut industry left Dan fascinated, surprised, and shocked.
He was amazed that the coconut palm produced regular bunches of large fruit all year round and had a life span akin to a healthy human. The fruit could be made into a wide range of products; the husk into coir fibre products; the shell into tools, ornaments, charcoal, and activated carbon. Then there was the nutritious juice and flesh which had delicious milk, cream, oil, and potentially desiccated coconut. Dan watched with fascination as a man climbed a palm to gather the sweet nectar, or toddy, from the young flowers (inflorescence). At a resort, he noticed all the polished coconut trunk structural pillars, and beautiful furniture. There were also woven mats, baskets and roof thatching that came from the palm fronds. It was stunning.
It was with a glowing view of the coconut palm's bounteous liberality that Dan visited several coconut farms. Here, he was surprised to find that the communities were relatively poor.
While visiting the down-stream processing area, Dan witnessed the conversion of a mature coconut's beautiful clean white flesh into smoky, dirty, copra. Large mills then crushed the contaminated copra into rivers of putrid brown oil which had to be refined, bleached, and deodorised (RBD) to create a yellow, odourless, final product.
Then there were the sites making coconut-shell charcoal in pits and workers combing and spinning coir rope from coconut husks. The smoke, dirt, and evidence of child labour suggested a tropical version of the "dark and satanic mills" of the industrial revolution two centuries earlier in England.
This experience left Dan deeply shocked. A year later, his reaction erupted into a poem contrasting these conditions with the casino culture spreading so rapidly in the west.
In 1979, Dr Dan took a sabbatical from the Australian National University (ANU) and spent three months in Sri Lanka researching the economics of "multi-storey" cropping, concentrating on the coconut industry. This led to the creation of the computer package, MULBUD (Multi-crop; Multi-time-period Budgeting), that allowed researchers and farm management advisors to develop strategies for more economic outcomes in complex "agroforestry" systems.
While the development of this package with skilled programmer, Peter Matthews, was an exciting activity, the major problem gradually dawned on Dan. The coconut industry's relative poverty had less to do with farming systems and much more to do with the products produced.
In April 1986, cyclone Namu tore through the Solomon Islands. Namu devastated the rice fields on the plains of Guadalcanal, so much so that this industry has never recovered. That same month, the world price of the Solomons' major export, copra, dropped to less than half its "normal" price. Deaths in the country from malaria had increased rapidly. Population growth was much faster than the increase in national educational and medical services.
Having visited the Solomons a couple of years earlier, Dan felt a burden for the country which had become "paralytic". He recalls praying for a way of helping the Solomons to heal, possibly through the coconut palm, the Tree of Life, with its wide range of products.
In 1992, Dr Dan led a consultancy team in Mozambique. Here, a village soap maker appealed to them to come up with a method of producing oil directly from coconuts. If such a technology existed, it could radically transform the lives of poverty-stricken coconut farmers around the world. Dan did not forget this plea.
Later that year he learnt that the people of a remote Tuvalu island in the centre of the South Pacific had long ago discovered how to cold-press coconut oil from sun-dried coconut. However, the copra trade and cheap imported vegetable oils had "killed" this indigenous technology.
Recognising the economic significance and potential of "on site", "on farm" production of coconut oil, Dan worked in collaboration with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Australia, and with other colleagues, to develop the Direct Micro Expelling (DME) technology. Over the following years of trial and error, mainly in Fiji and Samoa, the manual Press consistently produced exceptionally high-quality oil. This proved that it could be used in remote island, village-based communities that had easy access to coconuts.
A new company
With the encouragement and backing of a few friends, Kokonut Pacific Pty Ltd (Australia) was established in 1994. The Company started manufacturing and selling DME equipment and providing training and consultancy services.
A Kokonut Pacific website was set up and enquiries started pouring in from all over the world.
2003 - 2006
An innovative sustainable project
In 2003 a large order for DME Units came from India and in 2004 DME VCO took hold in the Solomon Islands. Two years later, in 2006 Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands (KPSI), a DME Hub in the Solomon Islands, won the Gold Award of an international competition organised by the Asia Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) for innovative sustainable projects.
600 DME Units
With over 60 DME units operating in the Solomon Islands, virgin coconut oil is their first certified organic export.
Between 1994 and 2020, over 600 DME units have been manufactured and sold worldwide.