With the Ian Jones’ Taste of Tonga business, nothing goes to waste. Even pig poop is of value – literally (more on that later). A few years ago, Ian Jones and his wife became disenchanted with 20 years of corporate life in Tasmania where they lived and ventured into the Pacific to live in the little island of Vava’u of the Kingdom of Tonga to start an amazing adventure. They wanted to do something different; something more that will make a change in their community while benefiting the people around them. For Jones, it was not just about making a lot of money and having expensive stuff to enjoy – they wanted to impact their world, help people and make others happy. Taste of Tonga provided him with that perfect opportunity.
Use what you have
The Vavav’u Island had plenty of coconut trees, producing some 15 million coconuts per year, according to agriculture authorities on the island. Additionally, the island was blessed with some 300 vanilla plantations that were abandoned. Jones and his wife sought to use these abundant materials that were laying as waste in his new home to create a business that was second to none. They wanted to see how best they could use the coconuts and vanilla to create products that were useful, while at the same time provide jobs for the residents of Vava’u.
Zero waste value-chain
There are several products made by Jones’ company, but three main ones for export: soap, vanilla extract and coconut oil. Firstly, with the coconuts, the outer shell is peeled off. The husks from the peel are sent to the vanilla plantations where they are grounded to make an oil absorbent material, which is sold and can be used at oil establishments. The shell from outside the coconut is removed into a gasifier – creating electricity. The white material inside the coconut is grounded, pressed and turned into coconut oil, which is then exported.
The leftover white material is fed to the pigs and chickens but some of it is placed into a maggot farm and become maggots. These are used to make chicken feed. When the chickens are slaughtered, the feathers are used to help make the pig feed. When the pigs pass out the waste in pig poop, it is turned into biogas, which is used to heat the oil that is used to make soap. The liquid waste from the biogas is used as fertilizer for his vegetable garden. The vegetables are sold in his restaurant; the waste vegetables are once again fed to the pigs. When these pigs are slaughtered (as well as the chickens) the guts are removed and thrown into the mangroves and fed on by mud crabs. The shell of the mud crabs, when they are killed are crushed and used as feed for chicken to provide calcium.
“At the end of that you have zero waste,” said Jones with a smile.
The Jones’ also operate a hotel, bar and bistro, where all of their products are used. Nothing goes to waste. This experience is the perfect example of how an agri-business establishment can create value in a community and provide employment solely by utilising all the natural gifts of that environment. The key is use what you have and devise ways to raise the capital when traditional sources of financing are not willing to support your dream. Just take the first step and doors will open.
Photo credit: Fred Unger/ILRI
Blogpost by Andre Huie, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.