Opinion

Indian Kale: Discovering Ways to Overcome Pest Infection and Short Shelf Life

Published Oct 15, 2019
Although the demand for kale has been rising sharply, the plant is both difficult to grow and export. By nature, kale is highly prone to pests and has a short shelf life. Read about how an Indian agriculture startup is tackling these problems.

The demand for kale, especially in developed markets such as the US, Canada, and Germany, is ever increasing as kale is gaining recognition as a superfood due to its high nutritional content. Kale is one of the few sources of Omega-3 among greens such as lettuce, spinach, and cabbage, and its high vitamin and antioxidant contents have made it into a very popular product with health-conscious consumers. To keep up with the rising demand, the production of kale has increased by over 60% in the last decade.

Although the demand for kale has been rising sharply, the plant is both difficult to grow and export. According to LandCraft Agro, an Indian kale producer and exporter, kale is very prone to pests such as listeria. To minimize the chance of pest infection and crop damage, the company uses a combination of aquaponics and sealed-controlled greenhouse technologies. Furthermore, raw kale has an extremely short shelf life: kale has a shelf life of around 4 to 5 days. Although the shelf life can be almost doubled using Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), kale in India is mostly air freighted to developed overseas markets such as Germany, the Middle East, and Singapore. The company is also planning on exporting kale to the US markets in 2020.

Read more on ways to increase the quality of kale and overcome pest infection. 

Even when the kale is air freighted, the importers only have around a week to sell the kale to consumers before the product goes bad. As a result, the sale of Indian kale is mainly limited to importers with fast-moving sales networks. To expand its customer base, LandCraft Agro is exploring the idea of producing and exporting dehydrated kale. When kale is dehydrated, the plant still retains all its nutritional content. In addition, its shelf life increases to 2 years and weight is reduced by 90%. In a lot of developed markets, kale is often used to make smoothies, chips or soups. As such, dehydrated kale could easily substitute fresh kale and the company thus expects the market for dehydrated kale to be well established. 

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