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Posted at: Sep 24, 2018, 12:17 AM; last updated: Sep 24, 2018, 12:17 AM (IST)

Small is beautiful

Micro cold stores can help farmers save themselves from the uncertainty such as a steep fall in the prices of produce due to excess supply in mandis, says Taranjeet Singh Bhamra

India with a diverse agro-climate, is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, next to China. It produces approximately 300 million tonne of fruits and vegetables. But considerable part of our total food production is lost due to poor post-harvest management. The estimated losses, particularly in fruits and vegetables, are higher and is up to 30-40 per cent. These percentages are unacceptable as they are adversely affecting farmers and the nation's economy.

Owing to the lack of production planning and post-harvest infrastructure, the supply of vegetables or fruits increases suddenly in a particular region, creating a glut. Growers are forced to make distress sale, besides substantial quantity of the produce goes waste. 

Deterioration of perishable produce starts right after the harvest. The cost-effective micro cold storages, with low operation cost, could be an effective solution to get rid of the situation. 

This cold room is transient in its nature of service. It can be used at farm gate, distribution hubs or at retail outlets. The produce can be stored safely immediately after harvest into such stores for short duration, particularly during peak harvest season when prices of commodities are very low. This way, micro cold stores can help the farmers to save themselves from uncertainty such as steep fall in prices of produce due to excess in mandis.

Currently, a Punjab-based startup is working extensively in this segment, which has developed low-cost micro storages. The product is the outcome of perfect blend of hardware, IT and IOT (Internet of things) technologies. The scope of storage is beyond horticultural crops in the entire agri-value chain such as ripening chambers for fruits like bananas and mangoes because it maintains a favourable temperature and humidity range. The same technology could be an effective storage solution for eggs, dairy and flowers. 

Such micro cold stores could be used in modular forms as well to store multiple commodities in different chambers as the temperature and humidity requirement varies from crop to crop. Unlike big cold store facilities with high operational cost (due to high electricity consumption), micro units can save a 60 per cent upfront cost and up to 50 per cent operational cost, and enables farmers to store small quantities with better cost effectiveness.

— The writer is CEO, Agnext Technologies, Mohali

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