Coir is the outside layer of husk that surrounds the shell of the coconut. It consists mainly of fibres, which have traditionally been used to manufacture rope, carpets, doormats, upholstery stuffing, brushes etc. Between these fibres is the corky substance called coir pith or coir dust, which has recently been widely recognised as the superior growing medium in which to grow tomatoes, roses and many other crops. The horticulture industry often calls this substrate coco-peat (or cocopeat) or coir-peat. Sometimes it is known by similar sounding brand names.
A TYPICAL PRODUCTION PROCESS*
The entire coconut husk is soaked with water and the fibres removed at the fibre factory for the production of brushes, rope, carpets, matting, etc. The coir pith is unused and becomes a by-product of the fibre factory process. Depending upon many factors including the local climate, the soaking method and the particular processes used in the coir fibre factory, the coir pith may be suitable for horticultural use.
If it is of suitable quality, it is moved from the coir fibre factory and the coir pith then undergoes various cleansing processes such as sieving to remove large fibres and unwanted particles including sand and grit. Sieve size and thus particle size will be determined by customers' requirements. The coir pith is washed at this point to reduce the unwanted salts before being dried. The coir will then be compressed into a less bulky form suitable for shipment. This may be in the form of grow-bags, small 650 grams briquettes or larger blocks. Compression will vary according to customers’ requirements but will usually be between 4:1 and 8:1. Throughout this entire process, samples will be taken and tested by in-house laboratories to ensure that each batch complies with the required specifications.
*Certain factories will have slightly different techniques and in some cases the husks will come straight to the coir pith factory and avoid the coir fibre bristle/rope/upholstery industry altogether. In such cases the pith is the primary use of the coconut husk.