Our team has targeted industries in and around Warangal for our project, which has led us to realize the untapped potential of cottonseed meal as a protein source. Cotton is one of the most important crops of India. It provides direct livelihood to 6 million farmers, and about 40 -50 million people are employed in the cotton trade and its processing.
|Famous protein sources||Average cost in INR (per kg)|
Table: Nutritive quality comparison
The top 5 cottonseed meal producers are China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, and the USA. These countries account for almost 80% of world production and consume 75% of this production as feed . India is one of the largest cotton producers globally, accounting for about 26% of the world's cotton production. The country has also become one of the largest consumers of cotton, i.e., about 20% of the world's Cotton Consumption. The growth of cotton production is currently directly linked to the growth of the cotton textile industry, which is presently seeing an upward trend.
Fig: Leading global cotton mill users, 2010-20
Fig: World cotton production-consumption stocks
Primary stakeholders in this project include farmers and small-scale industries. Thus scaling up the project would only be possible in coherence with these stakeholders. The expected growth in cotton production (due to the textile industry) would also boost the growth in the cottonseed oil industry. Eventually, this will lead to increased production of cottonseed meal. The cottonseed oil market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.75% during 2019-2024. This can ensure an undisrupted supply chain.
Market growth drivers
In a world that is gravitating towards a vegan lifestyle, plant-based proteins like soybean, lentils, and beans will experience high demand. The world is also becoming fitter and healthier, which asks for high protein content on our plates.
Unique Selling Proposition
Whole cottonseed(WCS) is being used by dairy producers in the diet of early-lactation cows. WCS can increase milk output and boost butterfat. Cottonseed consumption would hypothetically increase the amount of HDL, also known as the "good" cholesterol in the body. Thus, helps in reducing the impact of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol levels in the human body. This is because cottonseed oils are rich in oleic acid, which helps in boosting the activity of HDL.
Therefore consumption of degosyypolized CSM could boost the productivity in cotton usage for food while reducing the dependence on dairy and soybean for protein. Also, as shown, CSM is more affordable than soybean or any other protein source, making it accessible for developing countries.
Fig: SWOT Analysis
Interview with a Market expert
Interaction with Surbhi Guha
We interacted with Ms. Surbhi Guha to get insights on the opportunities of Entrepreneurship in the Food and Nutrition industry. Based on the experience of her startup journey, which deals with food and Nutrition, she emphasized the importance of nutritious food and the fact that working-class people living in urban areas are facing problems in having a balanced, protein-rich diet.
She expressed a positive opinion about the nutritious value of Cottonseed and the nutritional requirements that would be met with the availability of Low Gossypol Cottonseed.
Ms. Guha said that the key to converting an idea to a successful enterprise would be to identify the stakeholders and collaborate with them. She emphasized that marketing is a significant aspect of scaling up our project, and thus, identifying the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and effectively conveying it to the audience should be our primary target.
Usage of social media and other powerful tools would help us in marketing the product. Since our stakeholders are located in the rural parts of India, having less Internet penetration, Ms. Guha advised us to collaborate with NGOs and Companies that already have a better reach in these areas. She also suggested we approach the Government for financial support and partner with Government programs that aim at agriculture.
We have surveyed to determine the current level of awareness of cotton products for food. The respondents are majorly educated youth. Through our survey, we have found that a significant majority of people believe that hunger is a significant problem and needs addressing. We also found out that more than 86% of the respondents opinionated that GMOs could be applicable for solving this problem.
Business Analysis of our project by IISER Mohali
One of the long-term aims of the project is to provide cottonseed as a source of human nutrition to help solve the pervasive malnutrition problem. For this goal to be realized, it is important to make our product available to a global audience, and consequently it becomes vital to have a proper business analysis. IISER Mohali aided us in this process by providing us with significant inputs such as target market and possible challenges that our product is likely to face in the future. They also gave inputs regarding potential commercialization strategies for our project since an accessible and affordable product is more likely to succeed than one which isn't easily available. Following is the business analysis that was given to us by the IISER Mohali iGEM team:
With the growing demand for food, it is essential to ensure quality and nutrition. Thus, we need to include all essential macronutrients. In the developing world, this means providing protein-rich food at affordable prices. Most people in our country get their protein from lentils and dairy. This is not affordable to the poverty-stricken areas. Our product ensures high-quality protein (after fortification) and provides a reasonable alternative to them. This is also a more sustainable alternative compared to dairy/meat.
The product, however, comes with demerits. It is not a complete source of protein. Hence, it needs to be processed/ eaten with other protein sources to be wholesome. The massive distrust of GMOs could also affect sales. We can combat this by raising awareness through social media platforms among the educated youth having a positive opinion on GMOs (as per the survey). This would eventually trigger a chain of events that would increase demand for the product. For a country as agriculturally reliant as ours, the best way to move forward would be to collaborate with the government and industry. This collaboration would go hand in hand with providing information to the farmers to boost the productivity of their harvest.