Profiting From Jojoba Seed Oil

Interest in jojoba seed oil as a replacement for whale oil made collecting wild jojoba seeds a profitable venture for a time in the early 1980s.

| July/August 1980

  • 064 jojoba - removing chaff
    Winnowing jojoba seed "chaff" with a vacuum.
  • 064 jojoba - two panels
    TOP: The jojoba bush, a source of valuable oil-rich nuts. BOTTOM: An auto-powered jojoba huller.

  • 064 jojoba - removing chaff
  • 064 jojoba - two panels

If you're looking for an easy way to make money in your spare time—and who isn't these days?—you might consider jojoba hunting. The "sport" is great for family outings, it requires almost no equipment or training, and best of all, it can net a skilled picker up to $100 for one afternoon's foraging. Jojoba seed oil is much in demand now and selling for up to $50 per gallon ... and some jojoba dealers and nurseries will pay you $2.50 for a pound of the large brown nuts.

Gather Nuts ... Save Whales

At first glance, it seems unlikely that the scrubby little jojoba tree—which is native only to the Sonora Desert region of southern Arizona, California, Mexico, and the Baja peninsula—could attract much attention, but Simmondisia chinensis has recently created quite a stir with its "miracle" oil.

Ever since the U.S. banned all imports of whale-derived products in 1971, the search has been on for a suitable replacement for the precious oils which we once got from the sperm whale (now an endangered, and protected, species).

The hardy jojoba has been growing wild right under our noses ... but only recently have we discovered what a rich source of a valuable oil (which is very similar to the substance we formerly killed whales to obtain) the plant is. The seeds of this long-lived and rugged bush yield an average of 50% by weight of the colorless fluid ... which is chemically classed as a liquid wax. 

Because of similarities in the organic makeup of the two substances, jojoba oil can be substituted for sperm whale oil in just about all of its applications ... including its use in automotive lubricants, solid wax (candles and polishes), cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and leather softeners. Products containing jojoba oil have begun to pop up in health food stores and beauty salons all over the country ... and the "miracle" liquid is being touted as everything from a skin moisturizer to a cure for baldness.

Join the Gold Rush

Although experimentation with the jojoba is increasing all the time (1,000-acre plantations of the woody desert shrub have been established in North Africa, Australia, and the southwestern United States), there are very few commercial jojoba growers in full operation ... so the field is still wide open for anyone who wants to take advantage of the high price, low volume market. If you'd like to join in the search for the desert bean, why not grab a bag, bring along a friend for safety's sake, and head for the sands? You can sell the seeds you find to nurseries, plantations, or jojoba research organizations. And as a result, you'll not only fill your own pocket but perhaps help save a few whales, too!

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