This hotelier-cum-farmer from Hosanagar taluk in the district has found an alternative raw material to sugarcane for producing jaggery, the watermelon.
Jayaram Nagaiah Shetty from Sampadamane near Nittur in Hosanagar taluk prepares jaggery from watermelon juice and has proved to be a role model for other farmers by his innovative thinking.
Shetty was upset as the watermelon grown on his three acres of land commanded a low price. This prompted him to produce jaggery out of the juicy giant.
The farmer presently has a stock of 200 kg of jaggery and he is giving it to people of the region free of cost.
Speaking to DH, he said, "I closed down Hotel Navaratna at Nittur in Hosanagar taluk after the lockdown was enforced. My produce commanded just Rs 1 per kg this year in the market, against last year's Rs 4. I decided not to sell it, as I have to spend money from my pocket even to transport the fruits. Traders from Kerala used to come here to purchase the fruit every year, but they couldn't come this year due to the lockdown."
"To prevent the rotting of eight tonnes of the fruit, I decided to prepare jaggery out of watermelon juice," the farmer said.
"I had tried it in the hotel last year. But I had not prepared it on a large scale."
Shetty started growing watermelon since last year, after returning to his hometown from Mumbai. His brother is still running a hotel in Mumbai, he added.
He said, "with the help of the seven staff in my hotel, I prepared watermelon juice and boiled it at medium temperature. After some time, it turned into semi-liquid jaggery like joni bella, which is famous in Uttara Kannada district".
He said the juice has to be boiled for just two hours or it loses its freshness and the jaggery turns bitter. A hundred litres of juice gives 8 kg of jaggery.
"At present, I have stored 200 kg semi-liquid jaggery in containers and I am giving it to people free of cost. Farmers must think of preparing byproducts from their crops to avoid losses," he suggested.