Transporting perishable items such as fruits and vegetables via air can ultimately prove to be a costly affair for the buyer, owing to the soaring freight charges of Rs 25-30 per kg.
However, this cost can be reduced to Rs 12-15 if transported by road. This not only helps the consumers get their produce at cheaper prices, but also helps farmers keep their produce fresh.
IIT- Kharagpur alumni Devendra Gupta, Prateek Singhal and Vivek Pandey conceived the idea of Ecozen Solutions to do precisely that.
Initially, the company sold solar solutions such as lanterns, solar rooftops, and residential and LED street lighting, and later moved to offer innovative solar-powered agriculture products such as water pumping solutions.
However, the idea of this cold storage was born while Devendra was working with farmers to provide them with irrigation solutions.
“Working closely with marginal farmers with small landholdings helped us realise that while they were benefiting by increasing productivity through innovative irrigation methods, they were unable to improve income,” he says.
In 2014, the trio built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) equipped, portable solar-powered standalone cold room – Ecofrost — that can be monitored and controlled via an app.
Ecofrost enables farm-level pre-cooling of fruits, vegetables and flowers, allowing farmers to keep their produce fresh for longer and get the best possible rates from the market.
“We also started offering cold storage solutions for transporting produce to the market through IoT linkages,” Devendra explains.
The startup has set up 250 cold storage facilities, which have helped close to 72,000 farmers, including 40 farmer producer companies in states such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
This has reduced losses of over 14,000 metric tonnes of agricultural produce, saved 225 million litres of diesel and abated 6,74,000 tons of Co2 so far.