Women in STEM
“Vision without execution is hallucination.” The Sathya Olive Company was created by Tanuja and her husband Keith Sanders and is located on Sai Estate, 2 kms from the Indian Ocean and 160 kms south of Perth, in the south-west region of Western Australia. The name “Sathya” meaning “True” in Sanskrit symbolises the Clean and Green Environment of the 30 acres olive grove on Sai Estate. It was just by chance that Tanuja and her husband found themselves living on a 100-acre property after needing to move to the Southwest for a project in Worsley Alumina near Collie in 1999. Looking for a place to rent was a struggle due to the Worsley Expansion attracting a lot of Engineering and Construction talent to the region. Tanuja recollects “We were driving down the old coast road, and we came across a home open sign for a property”. Being entrepreneurial by nature, Tanuja wanted to explore the opportunity of short-term rental of the property from the owners, however, that was not what the property agents had in mind. It was a pleasant and a modest farmhouse that Tanuja observed as she looked around but admits that she had no concept of the size of the property at that time when outlined as being 100 acres of land by the property agent. Time was of the essence for them to find a place to stay and hence it was a 10-minute decision for Tanuja when she looked around the farmhouse and thought they could make it work “I bought the property before I knew what I bought.” The following weekend after their offer was accepted, Tanuja and her husband went to see the property, walking the 3 kms circumference. “We didn’t know what we were going to do with the land”. After building a home of their dreams to suit all of their Indonesian Furniture, Tanuja held a housewarming. At this party, one of her guests suggested that it would be so nice if they planted Olive Trees down the driveway. Having a supplier contact, Tanuja bought 2,500 Olive Trees. “I had no clue about growing olives”. At the time, Tanuja was running a project for an engineering company with a team of engineers under her. She organised a ‘team-building exercise’ where they helped plant all the trees over a three-day period. With luck on her side, Tanuja had an Italian gardener at the time who helped show the best practices when it came to utilising olives. “I learnt how to pickle olives. I made Indo-Italian Olives, South Indian style, and more” Tanuja started to find her style of mixing spices and developing olive oils with new fusion. With doubts from people around her saying, “what do Indian people know about olive oil”, this just provided Tanuja with more motivation to keep creating and developing her craft. In 2013, the mining industry started to take a slight dive, leaving a gap for where Tanuja had more time for the Olive Oil Business. We started making a lot of oil and had a decision to make around the business. “I started to realise that a lot of my friends were struggling to balance the taste on the pallet when it came to the spices and knowing how to develop those tastes correctly for the recipes”. Tanuja then developed her infused oils for her customers, developing oils with infusions of Garlic, Chilli, Lime, Orange and everything in between. “I think I am the largest in the world right now in the varieties and uniqueness of my oils”. Being a chemical engineer, she was able to apply her engineering skill set as well as her cooking abilities to allow her to create such distinct and successful infusions. The method to the infusion is all about problem-solving according to Tanuja, “The problem is the people are struggling to use the spices” Tanuja stated when it comes to elements like Garlic that there can be different levels of strength within each clove. “People who are following recipes don’t always realise it is the pallet that will give you the answer”. Tanuja establishes the right levels for her infusions, with the amount of oil you are adding will allow for the correct amount of spice and flavour. This is achieved through trial and error, with her oil from the previous year going into one of her recipes and prides herself in the food tasting the same. “Engineers are very analytical people. They work to define a problem and address those issues and provide a solution with quality management”. Tanuja doesn’t feel like she is yet fully immersed in the Agricultural industry as she simply just loves what she does. “I have learnt a lot from the farmers in the region, but there is also a lot that I question regarding their processes”. Talking candidly, Tanuja believes some farmers have boxed themselves in and that she believes that literacy levels of people in the Agricultural industry are still behind to sustain the future. “There doesn’t seem to be any interest to change”. Particularly in her region, there is a lack of succession and growth in the industry as much of the next generation doesn’t see the value of agriculture. Tanuja was recently featured in the engineering magazine Create for their innovative use of engineering in a Farming practice. This included coming up with a method by which we applied variable speed drives to convert the single-phase power supply to three-phase, enabling them to run more powerful three-phase motors from a single-phase input. Tanuja is excited to see the future generation of the industry start to adopt hi-tech and smart methods in farming and challenge these aged and unsustainable ways of doing things. As a RRR Stem Women, Tanuja’s advice is to follow your dream stating “Vision without execution is hallucination”. Tanuja goes on to say that having an idea and just sitting with it is not good enough. You need to put it into action! Tanuja also says that external elements turning you away doesn’t mean that you need to give up. “What you believe is what you need to follow”. Tanuja and her husband cut all of the noise out and just followed their own path, leading to a huge amount of success and international awards for all of her oils from LA, Australia, Japan, and more. Reflecting upon her first move to their property, they struggled to become accepted in the community, as they wanted to do things differently. Leaving us with “Self-belief, Self-Love, Empowerment yourself, Trust yourself and go achieve something bigger”.