At Vanadurgi, innovation has resulted in numerous modifications to the diverse aspects of agarwood industry. Technology plays a major role at every step, resulting in enhanced production and decreased production cost. With the right use of technology, Vanadurgi produces superior quality products at reasonable prices, something that the industry looks forward to. The company has developed many in-house technologies with the active assistance of its sister concerns. Research activities are also on with government and private institutions to develop a comprehensive artificial inoculation technology and scientific and modern methods of cultivation. Associations are also in progress for research and development with the horticulture department, forest departments, agriculture universities, forestry colleges and medicinal and aromatic plant boards etc. The company has close collaborations with organisations and individuals with a vast knowledge and technology in the agrwood industry around the globe.
Agriculture technology :
Plantation establishment in a scientific way is a very important step in commercial agriculture. Right spacing, irrigation system and infrastructure - whatever is done in the beginning, will influence the lifetime of that plantation. In our project, agarwood is grown in both mono-crop and inter-crop systems along with companion commercial crops. Most of our plantations are developed in the unique model of inter-cropping system that has the lowest production cost, with no parallels elsewhere in the world. Three to four compatible crops are grown in the same place in the right spacing so that each species will have sufficient sunlight and minimum root competition. Plantations are promoted in ideal locations based on climate, elevation, soil fertility, topography, rainfall, water source etc. Most of our plantations are in an elevation ranging between 2,000 ft and 3,500 ft from MSL, and in climatic zones which have long freezing winters and warm summers, conditions necessary to produce the best quality of resinous wood.
To overcome the problem of planting bad varieties and then wasting capital and time, the company has introduced a genetically-traced species that increases productivity and quality. For the very first time in the history of plantations, the company has introduced agarwood as a shade tree in coffee estates, which has proven to be very beneficial in every manner. Simple agro-technics such as growing agar trees in semi-shade under commercial trees will reduce leaf-eating caterpillars and also safeguard trees from drought, especially when the trees are inoculated. Plantations are managed very systemically by taking care of pest and disease control, proper pruning, and by the replanting of damaged trees by well-qualified agro-tech professionals.
Artificial inoculation Technology:
The quality of resinous agarwood, produced naturally, stands much better than the artificially produced ones. Keeping this in mind, the company has developed most of its plantations in heavy rainfall regions which encourage insect boring, fungal infection and resin formation. We encourage our planters to follow traditional methods such as axe wounds, severe bark removal and nailing etc., which allow fungi to infect the tree. This operation is generally done just before the onset of winter, when a 30% deep cut is made on the tree trunk with the help of a sharp knife. The cuts made in this manner allow fungal infection to begin and reach the inside of the tree trunk. The method is successful in a cool environment where the soil is rich in natural fungi. These methods require a long time for agarwood formation and typically produce good to medium quality resinous wood, but in less quantity.
Today, various kinds of artificial technologies are followed around the world, but most of them produce poor quality agarwood. There have been instances of complete or partial fungal infection on the stem, with no resin formation. In some cases, improper treatments have resulted in partial damage or complete death of trees. The main principle of all these processes is to drill holes in the tree trunk to inoculate a mixture of chemicals, organic compounds or micro-organisms. Several aerobic and anaerobic methods are in practice with difference in compositions. With the advantage of easy evaluation of the discolouration area, these treatments represent a great improvement in quantity, compared with the traditional physical wounding methods.
The company has conducted research that has led to the technology that can generate better quality heartwood. It is an efficient method in which simple and cheap steps are adopted. This method resembles the natural phenomena and can produce better quality products, but in less quantity. Results, so far, have shown good quality, similar to that of wild agarwood in terms of chemical constituents and essential oil content, with a strong fragrance, ideal texture and desirable black resin. However, the methodology remains a technical secret with us.
Traditional processing technology:
The company offers end-to-end solutions with advanced technologies in harvesting and regenerating the trees as well. Trees are recommended for harvesting after the completion of winter, when they have the maximum oil content. In case the root is infected, the company recommends the pulling out of the tree along with its roots. Trees chosen for harvest are cut down, leaves plucked out, and cut into pieces 1-2 metre long, weighing 10-20 kg each, and transported. At the primary processing factory, the bark is slit and the infected and non-infected wood parts are separated using indigenous tools. The infected wood is then graded according to industry standards as soft yellowish white material, whereas the average quality of agarwood is brown in colour, and the best one is black, giving out better fragrance when burnt.
The company follows traditional methods to extract low grade oil from inferior quality wood. To produce odours as per the customers' requirements, it has made required modifications at various stages of the extraction process. It has developed an efficient agarwood oil distilling process with the assistance of its sister concerns which are engaged in the extraction of value-added food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical ingredients. The wood is segregated into various grades depending on their density and each grade is separately used for extraction. Steam distillation or hydro-distillation is followed with the catalysts to increase recovery. The number of days of distillation, temperature, condensation and the collection of oil as per the distillation duration will determine the quality of agar oil. Implementing simple technologies with experience is playing a major role in yielding better recovery and quality.
Modern processing technology:
The temperature of the agarwood powder in the general grinding process which does not use a cooling system can reach up to +70 degrees. Such a high temperature will reduce volatile components and heat-sensitive constituents in the agarwood powder. Therefore, the company follows the cryogenic powdering system in case of extraction of superior grades of resinous wood. This process does not damage or alter the chemical composition of the main elements in any way. The process involves cooling or chilling a material by dry ice, liquid carbon-di-oxide or liquid nitrogen, and then reducing it into the size of a small particle.
In order to get the best quality product and highest recovery, superior grades of chips are extracted in the Super Critical Fluid Extraction (SCFE) system using carbon-di-oxide as a solvent. SCFE is the process of separating one compound, that is oil, from another compound, that is agarwood powder, using supercritical fluids as the extracting solvent. The supercritical fluid state occurs when a fluid is above its critical temperature, and critical pressure when it is between the typical gas and liquid state. Manipulating the temperature and pressure of the fluid can solubilise the agarwood mix and selectively extract it. The agarwood powder is loaded in the extraction vessel and pressurised with CO2 to dissolve. It is then transferred to a fraction collector, where the contents are depressurised, and the CO2 loses its solvating power, causing the desired material to precipitate. The condensed CO2 can be recycled for use with the next batch.