A coconut takes about a year in order to grow from a flower into a ripe nut. During this time, the fruit of the coconut typically must go through three phases:
Phase 1: The coconut is bright green, and even before the nut turns ripe the clear liquid found in the centre is a delight to drink. But pre-mature harvest isn’t considered a sustainable model.
Phase 2: The nut starts to ripen post the green stage. It is slightly yellowish on the exterior and on the interior you can find a thin white layer of pulp.
Phase 3: The nut fully ripens when the exterior turns harder; the white meaty pulp also hardens and thickens.
This phase forms the key for a sustainable business model –a full ripened coconut!
This said, almost every part of the coconut palm has intrinsic commercial value and used for multiple applications. The Thai Fragrant variety, which is mostly grown for edible water, comes as an exception. However, this variety is limited on a commercial scale and is generally thrice the cost of normal varieties available in the market.
There are a few other varieties including the Dominican Republic and the Sri Lanka that are mainly grown for water. The coconut water out of these varieties is somewhat a tiny fraction of what will be required to sustain an entire market for coconut water.
Today it is estimated that all 95% of all coconut water packaged, marketed and distributed in the market is from the fully ripened coconut. The fully ripened coconut gives water charged with electrolytes. Therefore, there is not much difference between pre-maturely harvested coconuts and fully ripened coconuts. It is evident from the discussion above that that pre-maturely harvested coconut does not make a commercially viable and sustainable business model. If all you look for out of coconut is the edible water, then you may have some serious rethinking to do!