Growing up in Chennai, Mahek Parvez (19) would often witness a majority of the fruits and vegetables in the farmlands rotting before they could ever make their way to the markets.

She decided to take matters into her own hands and come up with some kind of a solution that would help farmers salvage their produce.

The innovation that she came up with is an eco-friendly grid-less cooling methodology named SunHarvested CoolRooms.

This technique, she says, allows the produce to remain fresh for three times longer than it would in traditional drum storage.

Elaborating on the design, Mahek says it was inspired by the climate in which she lived. “In Chennai, the evenings are colder compared to the mornings when the sun is scorching and the temperatures soar to as high as 45 degrees Celsius.”

“Rotting happens when humidity increases, so I knew I’d have to get the humidity to a stable level to prevent the produce from getting spoilt.”

The first draft of the product she designed comprised three parts — a brick room, an exhaust chimney and a draft tube.

These come together to work based on scientific principles of evaporative, cooling, and dehumidification, and keep the produce fresh without refrigeration.

The draft tube, which took Mahek a year to perfect, is made up of a wooden tray lined with aluminium sheets, aluminium grids, a material that maintains humidity, and arched glass.

When the aluminium sheets absorb the sun’s rays, they heat up and create a pressure void, propelling the wind towards the closure. This forms the wind circuit.

“This design mimics nature and convection currents, the same way the land and sea breezes work.” The entire apparatus is designed to keep the temperature and humidity optimal.

Finally, after a pilot, the project was commissioned in 2022. Mahek emphasises that the SunHarvested CoolRooms methodology is a sustainable alternative to cold storage.

She says it can help cut down on nearly 14 percent of the global greenhouse gases emitted due to refrigerants.