The Pongamia tree, an oil-producing tree originating in India, is being trademarked and marketed under the name “Vayusap,” a “wonder plant.” Vayugrid Marketplace Services Private Limited Company, the company behind the trademark and marketing, says the Vayusap, is a high yield, genetically elite Pongamia, resistant to a wide range of adverse weather conditions and tolerant of extremely poor soil types.
Douglas M. Petersen, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vayugrid Marketplace Services, says the plant, while not a source of edible oil, has a range of potential uses from bio-fuels to pharmaceuticals.
Wondim Teklu, State minister of Water and Energy (MoWE), was present at a meeting held on October 16th at the Hilton, introducing Vayusap. Wondim said the government is interested in companies that try to introduce these types of products but that, since its hands are tied in a lot of mega projects, it prefers to lease land to prospective investors instead of going in to Joint Ventures.
Petersen, in response, said that the government can facilitate the leasing of land at very low prices or even free of charge and hold stakes in the produce yielded from the land.
It was stated that reports indicate that in many countries around the world, between 60-70 percent of expenditure, are expenses of the energy needs of an economy. To reduce this, countries use all means at their disposal.
Doctor Abera Deressa, former State minister of Agriculture, was among the participants at the meeting. He said Pongamia tree products can be an important factor in community development and environmental protectiona though he said compared to other plants with similar uses, like the famous “Jatropha” and “Castor oil”, it has, on average, a lower yield per acreage.
Increased energy independence
Wondim, while stressing the government’s keen interest in the plant, said that licenses have previously been issued to more than 86 investors for Jatropha plantations projects but, so far, only three investors are actively involved in the extraction process.
“We don’t have the industry to process and blend oil for household and vehicle use,” Wondim said. But government institutions like the military might be interested in joint ventures.
Dr. M.V.R Prasad, Vice president of Vayugrid Marketplace Services PLC, said, during his work in African countries and Latin America, where he saw the effects of fossil fuel pollution, helped him rediscover his commitment to alternative sources of energy that are both sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“In addition to being far less toxic to the nutrients in the soil,” said Prasad, “the cost of producing bio-fuels from Pongamia, compared to that of Castor Oil and Jatropha, is much lower, requiring less labor, being suitable for mechanization and having greater stability and consistency in yield.
Vayugrid Marketplace Services PLC currently has projects in India, Djibouti, and the southern US state of Texas.