Promoting Sri Lanka’s plant-based culture and history can provide a good opportunity to move into the world market, asserted Rajitha Ariyaratne, Co-founder of AAYU Goodness Products, in an interview with the SLYCAN team.
AAYU provides 100% natural, healthy, and pure processed food in partnership with rural farming communities in Sri Lanka. Emphasising that the world was moving towards sustainability, Rajitha noted that initiatives like EthicalX would help those engaged in similar business grow as a community while contributing to society at the same time.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Rajitha, would you like to introduce yourself?
I am Rajitha Ariyaratne. My brother and I started AAYU Goodness Products. Professionally, I am a chemical and processing engineer. After passing out of university, I thought of commencing a journey of entrepreneurship so we started AAYU Goodness Products. We provide 100% natural, healthy, and pure processed food in partnership with rural farming communities in Sri Lanka.
We commenced operations in 2021 and are close upon two years old now. During the past few years, we faced many problems due to the COVID pandemic and the economic crisis. However, as we move on, our main aim is to provide healthy processed food. We chose the name AAYU because it means ‘may you live long’. It means a lot for us to be a part of EthicalX since the programme provides a lot of knowledge and support.
You mentioned your enterprise focuses on rural farmers. Could you please explain the way it works?
We are based in the Nuwara Eliya District. Our village is in Hanguranketha, an area famous for vegetables and fruits, so we thought of starting in our local area.
We connect with them directly since we have a lot of farmers in our village. We prefer not to go with middlemen so we go directly to the farmers and purchase their raw materials and process them in our facilities.
Could you give me more information on your products?
Yes. In our area we grow a lot of ginger and turmeric and other types of vegetables. Initially we started with ginger powder and turmeric powder, but we are now also supplying dehydrated carrots and leeks to manufacturers of noodles.
We also provide pepper and various kinds of spices which can be easily obtained from our local area. Another new product is jackfruit curry, containing dehydrated jackfruit which can be directly cooked and consumed.
Where can the products be purchased? Do you supply them to markets in Colombo?
We currently market the products locally in the Nuwara Eliya district. We have connected with the Nuwara Eliya district secretariat, which has a section for food entrepreneurship. Through that, we distribute and market the products in our district. We have not entered the Colombo markets but we hope to do so soon.
So, there is a programme being done by the Government to support entrepreneurship?
Yes, it is a conventional system and small-scale entrepreneur can join it. We get a lot of support; they organise exhibitions and exhibit our products. We try to give our products in bulk to manufacturers such as medicinal manufacturers and noodles manufacturers.
In terms of food systems, we have entrepreneurs focusing on different aspects and one of these was plant-based food. Yours is also plant-based. Is there any reason behind it?
The main reason is that we can find a lot of plant-based food in our area and the fact that we have a heavily plant-based culture and history. Promoting this can provide a very good opportunity to move into the world market.
Is there any specific area where programmes like EthicalX can help entrepreneurs like you?
Yes. The world is also moving towards sustainability and we have to come together as a sustainable business so I think EthicalX and this initiative can bring us together and we can grow as a community, giving a lot to society while benefiting ourselves as well.
SLYCAN Trust launched the EthicalX programme in January 2022 to enhance Sri Lanka’s start-up ecosystem and strengthen ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship on all levels. Through Climate & Innovation Hubs, EthicalX provides capacity-building and technical support for entrepreneurs at various stages of their business development, with a special focus on plant-based food systems.
The EthicalX Food Systems Cell comprises talented and well-rounded entrepreneurs with a common interest in enhancing their capacities, expanding their network, and promoting sustainable and ethical food systems through their enterprises.