Micro Cold Storage, a farm-level solar cold storage system developed by Vivek Pandey from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and Rahul Sharma from IIFT, has been adjudged as the winner in the renowned national university competition as part of Dupont’s ‘Power of Shunya’ programme. In an interaction with Poulami Chakraborty of ENN, Vivek talks about the ways that this innovation can address the issue of food wastage and plans to market the product
Please discuss the salient features of your research on Food Wastage reduction.
Over 30 percent of fruits and vegetables are wasted annually in our country, which is worth an amount of 12 billion USD annually. As a result, there is a 60 percent deficit in the current cold chain infrastructure. Of the available infrastructure with us, 75 per cent of the available storage facilities just cater to potatoes. Farmers lose on their deserved remuneration as well because they are forced to sell their produce to the middlemen because they do not have access to infrastructure for storage. In India, over 30 per cent of food is wasted due to lack of proper storage facilities. Despite being among the top producers of fruits and vegetables, the per capita availability of horticulture commodities in India is woefully low. Further, the unavailability of conventional power sources in the distant farms of India’s hinterland makes on-farm storage impossible for farmers to preserve their harvest. It was this insight that led us to develop Micro Cold Storage, which is an affordable onfarm cold storage device.
Recent statistics reveal that India wastes food worth `44,000 crore every year. How do you see this innovation revolutionising the scenario towards curbing food wastage?
The product is an on-farm solar cold storage. It fits the value chain of crops right at the farm level where maximum wastages are there. At the same time, it ensures deserved remuneration to the farmers.
The product can work in areas with no electricity with reliability. It is lower in comparison to any product that may use solar panels to run a conventional cold storage. The product suits the requirement of farmers, cooperative, farmer producer companies, village level entrepreneurs and supply chain players curbing wastages at each node of the food value chain hence making significant impact in terms of food security and livelihood.
What is the scope of promotion and USP of your innovation when it comes to generating revenue in Indian market? What are your plans for expanding this innovation to foreign countries?
As a developing country, India has immense potential for this innovation. We are attracting a lot of demand because of the merit of the product and its ability to solve the problem on ground very effectively. Our USP is the high operational efficiency and minimal running cost because of several innovations for the product makes us competitive.
Similar to the Indian context, the product fits very well in any other developing country with a problem of electricity. In developed countries where though power availability is not a problem, the product can fit in the food value chain with usage of clean technology thereby impacting the climate at large.
What is the potential of marketing and revenue generation that this innovation has from the Indian market?
Given the need and the demand, the innovation has a huge revenue generating potential. We are already creating strategic channels to market this product in a geography and customer-centric mode.
What are the challenges that you faced while researching on this innovation?
The primary challenge was identifying the type and configuration of the system a typical customer would want. We conducted extensive market research in various areas including UP, Haryana, Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka and a few other areas to understand what a prospective customer would want. Then, taking the idea from a concept stage to a stage where the product can work hassle free for a customer took a lot of design iterations.
What is your opinion about the potential of this kind of talent show-case seminars which brings forth newer innovation? What scope do they reveal for students?
The shows provide an amazing platform for showcasing the innovations which are solving such critical problems. At the same time, it encourages the youth/ students to take up challenges and implement their learning for better future. While the start-up culture in India mostly revolves around web/Internet-based innovations, it is critical to showcase innovations that are key to development of the country.