"We have almost an oversupply of muscadines now," Paulk said. He also has tons of grape seeds. Each muscadine grape has anywhere from two to four seeds. And for many years, Jacob Paulk just threw those seeds away.
Not anymore. Now he dries and grinds the seeds into powder, then puts the powder into capsules. "We're making a health food supplement out of it," he said.
Paulk hand-packs hundreds of capsules with about a gram of powdered muscadine grape seeds each, then packages the capsules with his own label. He stresses the natural aspect of his product, using costlier all-natural, cellulose gel caps instead of a cheaper capsule.
The 60-capsule bottles will go to health-food stores. He's banking on the growing popularity of muscadine-seed powder among health-conscious shoppers.
High in Antioxidants
"We have found the seed in particular to be very, very high in antioxidant components," said Romeo Toledo, a food scientist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Toledo praised Paulk's ingenuity. "It's a great use of a by-product that's normally been thrown away," he said.
At least one other company, in North Carolina, is selling powdered muscadine seeds. "Not very many, though, have the capability to separate the seed from the grape," he said. "Paulk is kind of unique because he has a deseeder that does a great job of separating the seed from the rest of the muscadine."
Not Just Growing Grapes
Paulk switched his thinking from growing grapes to processing and selling what he grows, an approach UGA experts say other farmers need to adopt.
Selling his powdered grape seeds directly to health food stores will enable Paulk to determine his own price, something many other farmers wish they could do.
(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)