Road to Coconut Sustainability - How Smart Farming Is Bringing In The Change

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“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain”

We all know the lyrics of the famous Pina Colada song ‘Escape’, don’t we? The thought of a pina colada gets our taste buds tingling and giving in to a craving for that coconutty delight. Be it a healthy, refreshing drink, a yummy cocktail, a nourisher to apply to the hair, a flavor to cooking food, or the numerous by-products of the coconut fiber in the manufacturing of bags, brooms, musical instruments, and even utensils nowadays, the coconut is truly a multi-purpose crop.

But how much do we know about the sustainability of this crop that has been driving everyone nuts forever (yes, pun intended)?

Let us understand the origin of this ‘tree of life' before we get into the aspect of sustainability. Coconut (Cocus Nucifera), a fruit of the Arecaceae family or simply the palm tree family, is believed to have originated somewhere in the Indo-Malaya region. It is a tropical crop, rich in fat and fiber.

Contrary to common misconception, the coconut is not a nut but a drupe. Coconut trees live on sandy soil and need regular rainfall with a consistent presence of sunlight for ideal growth. The crop’s nature makes it difficult for it to survive in lower temperatures and humidity levels. The versatility in its utility makes it one of the much-valued tropical crops, universally. Even the husk and the shell that is discarded as waste are utilized as a source of charcoal.

The Produce

Each year, 61 million tons of coconut are produced and distributed across the world. According to a survey by WorldAtlas, the leading countries in coconut production in 2018 are found to be Indonesia (183,000,000 tons), the Philippines (153,532,000 tons), and India (119,300,000 tons) accounting for 73% of the global coconut production. These are followed by Brazil (2,890,286 tons), Sri Lanka (2,513,000 tons), Vietnam (1,303,826 tons), Papua New Guinea (1,200,000 tons), and Mexico(1,064,400 tons), altogether producing 15% of the coconuts available worldwide.

In terms of revenue, India ($10B), the Philippines ($6.7B), and Indonesia ($4.5B) appeared to be the countries with the highest levels of market value in 2018 with a combined share of 60% at the global market, followed by Sri Lanka, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Mexico, which together accounted for 20% of the global market. Coconut cultivation is also one of the key sources of revenue for Pacific countries like Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Kiribati.


The Challenge

Global coconut consumption has only shot up every year, and the demand for coconut as a cosmetic and a consumable product has seen a consistent increase. While the coconut business is booming owing to the increasing global demand, the need for supply becomes a crucial factor in understanding sustainability. The coconut industry is facing a looming shortage of production due to the aging trees. It is widely acknowledged that after achieving a life span of 60 years, fewer coconuts are produced by the tree.

The world faces a predicament of increasing demand at a time when farmers have not been replanting for 20-30 years. Half of the existing coconut trees are found to be senile, leading to low yield and income. This leads to farmers indulging in monoculture farming regardless of the plot they are cultivating. This affects soil fertility, leading to degradation. Industry experts estimated that a billion trees need to be planted worldwide to cater to the global need for coconuts.

The coconut industry globally is fragmented in nature owing to the number of players and well-established units that operate in the industry. Coconut farmers are one of the most marginalized farmers in the agriculture sector. These smallholders face challenges like lack of financing, little or no scale of economies, and a rigid supply chain, often dependent on middlemen.

The traceability of coconuts is another concern since there is no way for the consumer to determine the credibility of the quality of the coconut they are purchasing, which in turn disables the opportunity for downstream players in encouraging supply chain improvements.


The sustainability of a crop is all about addressing the economic, social, and environmental aspects involved in the production of the particular crop. Ensuring end-to-end traceability, good farming practices and an efficient predictive system is the way to go to maintain sustainability in the agri industry. To achieve this, a tech-driven system that could bring all the solutions together in a cost-effective manner is the need of the hour i.e. smart farming.

Cropin’s state-of-the-art farm management solution SmartFarm empowers farmers to capture several parameters through every stage of production and monitor them systematically to increase productivity in coconut trees. By giving valuable insights on crop health, pest infestation, crop growth, and output predictability using accurate algorithms, SmartFarm fuels productivity and efficiency.

Cropin, through SmartFarm, brings in cutting-edge technology like cloud computing and Satellite monitoring to interconnect all the stakeholders at different levels of the coconut crop ecosystem. The intuitive, intelligent, ever-evolving, and self-learning system takes in information from various sources like weather, satellite, and ground data and delivers targeted solutions to the agribusinesses dealing with coconuts.

Along with this, the technology provides a two-way communication platform for the farmers and farmer organizations to share real-time crucial data, timely advisories, and alerts that are vital for crop sustainability. By application of such technology which introduces better agricultural practices into coconut farms, it has been observed that 40% of loss in productivity can be avoided.

SmartFarm also brings in the much-needed traceability into coconut farming by capturing data at every crucial phase in the life cycle of the crop. The technology behind SmartFarm normalizes farm to market data facilitation across supply chains, leading to higher credibility of FPOs and the coconut farmers themselves. The plantation module used by SmartFarm allows tracing back the supply chain of coconut trees which gives confidence of providing a sustainable supply chain to the customers.

The road to sustainability leads towards a better tomorrow by safeguarding the environment and finding an effective way to feed the future billions. Be it coconuts, cotton, or any other crop, sustainability is the Batman to this ‘Gotham’ of a world; the real hero we all need for the greater good.

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Abishek Keerthi Narayan

About the Author

A results-driven and strategic leader with over 18 years of experience in customer success, SaaS, management consulting and technology enablement. Proven track record of implementing customer-centric strategies to realize the key business outcomes of clients. Strong leader with a track record of building and scaling high-performing teams. Passionate about solving customer problems, creating value, and driving success.