“We had started with a small program more than 10 years ago and now it has grown to more than 10,000 farmers,” Hiren Doshi, president of Omniactive, told NutraIngredients-USA. The company is among a number of lutein ingredients suppliers seeking to secure the source of their raw material—marigold flowers.
“We give them the seeds and train them on the best farming practices,” Doshi said. “We work with them on how to improve yields.”
“Because we build a loyal base of famers there are able to stick with us so that we have a guaranteed supply. We plan our supply two years in advance, so we are already looking forward to 2017,” he said.
Cell phone based
Managing such a huge program is a challenge, Doshi said. Not only are there agricultural questions, such as making sure the crop is harvested at the right time, but also cultural ones.
“Managing a network of 10,000 farmers is extremely complicated,” Doshi said. “We are dealing with every farmer, their problems and the situations in their communities.”
The company uses an Android phone based system to help manage the program. Doshi said Omniactive teaches the farmers about best practices for best yields and what kinds of rotation crops to grow, with the phones coming in especially handy around harvest time.
“One of the biggest problems in agriculture is that up to one third of the corps harvested globally is wasted because it is not harvested at the right time. The farmers upload information in real time to guide the harvest,” Doshi said.
In addition to working with farmers, Omniactive has also worked to lessen the carbon footprint of the crop, Doshi said. The drying facilities are located close to the fields, as are the extraction facilities.
Lutein was once though of as an ingredient only for aging populations, but that is technology is changing that, Doshi said.
“Lutein was once thought of as a senior supplement. But now we are getting more and more blue light damage from computer screens, televisions, smart phones and tablets. The average person has more than 10 hours of screen exposure a day now,” Doshi said.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to protect eyes from blue light damage,” he said.“The need is shifting from senior formulas to all age groups. We are spreading the word about blue light damage to consumers, so that our customers can take advantage of this trend. We are anticipation the market to grow in a big way in the next two to five years.”