Researchers in the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras have come up with low-cost efficient freezers that farmers can use to transport their produce.
Three Ph.D students — Soumalya Mukherjee and Rajani Kant Rai from the Department of Biotechnology and Shiv Sharma from the Department of Mechanical Engineering — have developed portable cold storage, called Tan90.
The students initially considered developing a dehumidifier but a study of the market revealed that farmers had difficulty in transporting their produce.
A pain for farmers
“We were travelling around in villages and got to know that they had a problem with cold storage. We found that the logistics of cold storage is a huge pain for small-scale farmers. Then the product idea emerged,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
A cold storage with a capacity to hold 58 litres was fixed with thermal batteries. The batteries are charged in the refrigerator for far fewer hours than the existing batteries. This innovation has taken care of the intermittent power supply issues.
The students then tested the product with farmers. “The advantage of the thermal battery is that we found the leaves remain fresh till the next morning. I am opening up channels for farmers who do not have to sell their produce at dirt cheap prices,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
Mr. Mukherjee recently finished his Ph.D and is with Nirmaan, the institute’s incubation cell.
As an entrepreneur, he is receiving a stipend from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Niti Aayog is also funding the project. The two other students are close to completing their Ph.D.
Satyanarayanan Seshadri, assistant professor, Department of Applied Mechanics at IIT-Madras, who is mentoring the students, said: “Tan90 increases shelf life of agricultural produce, since it has better insulation design and can maintain a sub-ambient temperature (up to 10 degrees Celsius) for 10 hours.”
Tested with products
Tan90 has been tested with a wide range of products ranging from horticulture, meat/fish to high-value pharmaceuticals and biologicals. The product was tested among farmers in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Telangana.
“The original thought process was to maintain the freshness of vegetables and maintain a temperature level for longterm transport. Farmers were ready to give us a trial. The product will cost about ₹5,000 to ₹5,500 and is expected to be a hit with organic farm producers,” Mr. Satyanarayanan said. The product won the Open Innovation Challenge at the India Innovation Growth Programme 2.0 held recently.