Castor bean plant a miracle tree – variously applicable from the ornamental tree up to the production of the valuable castor oil – native in Africa, world-wide an ornament – in the discussion with Thomas Wegener – founder of Grow Express Ltd., Ibadan Nigeria
GrowExpress Ltd. manages a model agricultural estate in Nigeria. Interesting aspects in the context of research and science: the castor bean plant is a true „egg-laying woolly-milk sow“, it belongs to the wolf family. „The castor bean plant is a strategic commodity for diverse industries and sectors, making castor cultivation independent and crisis-proof. Its production flushes millions of dollars into the economic coffers of the states of USA, India, China and Brazil. The castor plant is a strategic product for GrowExpress Ltd. and other companies to create thousands of jobs for families in Africa“, explains Thomas Wegener, founder of GrowExpress Ltd. from Berlin.
Castor – ideal candidate for agriculture
Indeed, castor is the ideal candidate for agriculture to generate very diverse revenues throughout the production and supply chain. The products have potential to gradually replace conventional intermediate products. Local and international markets are guaranteed. Castor oil has proven excellent properties and performance for the production of high value commodities worldwide.
Castor is a very important oilseed crop with great utility in industry, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. The seeds contain between 40 and 60 percent oil. This is unique among vegetable oils in that it is the only commercial source of a hydroxylated fatty acid.
The presence of hydroxyl groups and double bonds in ricinoleic acid gives it unique chemical-physical properties that make castor oil a very important industrial biocrude.
Demand is increasing globally
In recent years, the demand for castor oil on the international market has increased enormously. This is ensured by several hundred different applications, ranging from medicine and cosmetics to biodiesel, plastics and lubricants. The oil has advantages over petroleum base stocks, especially at high and low temperatures due to its high boiling and low melting points.
In addition, the use of castor oil achieves a massive reduction in greenhouse gases, which is due to the fact that the very high oil content can be achieved through high-yield harvests at relatively low input.
Castor – The all-rounder in medicine
GrowExpress customers now use castor for a variety of applications that have evolved over time. Thomas Wegener comments: „These are achieved by very individually adapted hot and cold pressing processes. For example, it is also used for the eastern part of Nigeria as castor seed for the production of a fermented food spice called OGIRI.“
Castor oil, as a natural product, has also resonated very well for centuries in various health applications. These are used not only in alternative medicine, but also in conventional medicine:
Skin diseases / disorders: Castor oil is effective in treating skin problems such as sunburn.
Acne, ringworm, wrinkles and fine lines dry skin and stretch marks. It also prevents infections such as warts, boils,
Athlete’s foot and chronic itching. The oil is a good moisturizer for the skin and a disinfectant for the wound.
Hair treatments: Castor oil is mixed with coconut or almond oil to initiate hair growth, thicken eyebrows and eyelashes. The oil promotes blood flow to the follicles and leads to faster hair growth. The oil also has omega-6 as essential fatty acids, responsible for healthy hair. The oil is also used to correct or darken bald spots and hair.
Furthermore, castor oil is used in various continents as a helpful additive in other medical applications. For example, as a powerful laxative, as a food in healing applications such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, pain from rheumatism, gastrointestinal problems, menstrual disorders, migraines, age spots, skin abrasions and inflammations.
Castor – use of its uniqueness
Feed: Castor bean flour and also the shell are now very popular in animal feed. Autoclaved castor bean meal can replace up to 67% of the food soybean meal in sheep feed. As a result, soybean meal can be better used as a staple food for the population and is not in competition with livestock. The hull, in turn, is a byproduct that can ideally be used as roughage for ruminants.
Fertilizer: The use of castor bean meal as an organic fertilizer is very beneficial because of its high N content, as well as the rapid mineralization and anti-nematode effects. The mineralization of castor meal is much faster than cattle manure and 15 times faster than sugarcane bagasse. Furthermore, the experience is that castor fertilizer promotes the growth of wheat and castor plants. Castor shells are also used as an organic fertilizer, but they must be mixed with an N-rich organic material to ensure a better nutrient balance for plant growth.
Biofuels: The production of biodiesel from castor oil is technically feasible. This is big business as many countries around the world are trying to reduce their petroleum dependence. In Africa in particular, the transport sector will continue to run on internal combustion engines for a long time to come and will rely there on the support of the agricultural sector. This is because biodiesel produced from castor oil has a remarkable lubrication advantage and positive fuel properties due to its high energy value. The former main limitation was the price, which was driven by the high demands of the chemical industry for very high quality products. The high potential yield and unique fatty acid composition allow castor oil to be economically produced as a very competitive feedstock for the production of premium quality biodiesel, short chain aviation fuels and lubrication fuel additives and very high quality biopolymers.
Food industry: It uses castor oil in food as an additive, flavoring agent and as a mold inhibitor, inhibiting rotting in rice, wheat and pulses. Thomas Wegener: „The white, large castor seeds are important sources of food spices called „Ogiri“ in the southeastern part of Nigeria. It is believed that the spice improves eyesight. The spice can be stored for several months because the oil content inhibits the growth of microbes. The spice is a special delicacy of the Igbo people in Nigeria. 10 grams of the spice can cost up to $1 U.S.“
Industrial applications: Castor oil can be used in the polyurethane industry as a bio-based polyol. The oil is an important raw material in the paint and nylon industries, for example in nail polish. Castor wax produced by hydrogenation is used in polish, electrical capacitors, carbon paper and as a solid lubricant.
Thomas Wegener points out that GrowExpress cooperates with leading institutes to better exploit future potentials. This ensures that future developments and solutions can be quickly introduced into production, processing and marketing. The castor plant grows tree-like and vigorous in hot countries, and shrub-like and annual in temperate climates. The climate and soil should be neither wet nor dry, but the soil should be fertile. Castor oil is a much sought-after raw material in the chemical industry for a wide variety of often very specialized uses. It is mainly used for the production of plastics, high quality paints, textile fibers and pharmaceutical products.
GrowExpress Ltd. sees this holistic implementation as its main task in the coming years. This includes the production of improved varieties, improvement agronomic practices and fully mechanized castor production, as well as raising awareness among the African business community about castor production and its position in the world economy.
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GrowExpress Ltd office is located in Nigeria, Cocoa House, Dugbe, 200263 Ibadan. Completed in 1965 at a height of 105 meters, Cocoa House was once the tallest building in Nigeria and the first skyscraper in West Africa. It is located in Dugbe, one of the main commercial areas in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. The GrowExpress Ltd. company farms an estate of 800 hectares about 200 km north of the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria. For more information, visit: https://growexpress.org
Kingsley Ekwueme – Managing Director
Cocoa House, Dugbe
200263 Ibadan, Nigeria