IIT engineers have developed a solar-powered cold storage system that works at zero running cost as a solution to the wastage of agricultural produce in India.
Developed at the Science and Technology entrepreneurship Park (STEP) of IIT-Kharagpur by mechanical engineering student Vivek Pandey and his team, the micro cold storage system has been tested and proved in a farmland in Karnataka.
Under the banner of Ecofrost Technologies a manufacturing and assembly unit in Pune next month will be set up by this aspirant young team.
First of its kind in the world, there is no running costs for this unit and it works on sustainable technology throughout the year. Patent for the technology has been applied for, Pandey said.
Using solar panels of 2.5 KW – 3.5 KW, a uniquely designed thermal storage methodology that controls compartment cooling in tandem with regular cooling this micro cold storage increases the shelf life of agricultural produce.
The power generated is sent to the compressor, running at various speeds to adjust to the cooling demand. Instead of batteries, there is a thermal storage unit which can store power for more than 36 hours for cloudy or rainy weather.
Every year India loses around 30 per cent of food production due to wastage and contamination according to studies.
This technology enables farm-level solar cold storages even in areas with no access to grid connected electricity. If the shelf life of agriculture produce is increased, it will improve the livelihood of farmers’ allowing better price recovery, Pandey said.
The micro cold storage system has a capacity of 5 metric tons and a price varying between Rs 5 to 6 lakh, mainly meant for horticulture purposes.
A target to manufacture 20,000 cold storage units in the next five years has been set up from Pune unit. A fund of around Rs 5 crore will be collected from venture capitalists.
Moreover, in the national university competition ‘DuPont: The Power of Shunya’, this innovation has won a first prize of Rs 10 lakh.
The team plans to sell unit directly to farmers and create village-level entrepreneurs who will act as nodal points for cold storage in markets where a farmer can store his produce at a fixed cost.