Thane based AgroTech startup, RuKart Technologies comes forth with its low-cost, efficient, and no-electricity cold storage “Subjee Cooler”. Largely based on evaporative cooling, a unit can keep the crop produce fresh for 3 to 4 days.
It is not unknown that fruits and vegetables, being perishable, need immediate post-harvest attention to reduce the microbial load and increase their shelf life. One of the ways it can be achieved is by storing them at lower temperature and high relative humidity conditions. These conditions are usually achieved in cold storages. However, mechanical and solar cold storages are energy and capital intensive. A marginal farmer cannot afford resource-intensive cold storage. According to the NSSO, 70th Round, 2012-13, GoI, the average monthly expenditure of a marginal farmer exceeds his/ her average monthly income by a margin of Rs. 770 to Rs. 1250. Thus, it is not surprising that the penetration of cold storage in India remains low.
It was during his time at IIT Bombay when Vikash Jha came across the resource bias amongst farmers of the country. An IIT-B funded 3-year long research project brought the problem of insufficient technological resources amongst the marginal farmers into his notice. Under the guidance of his professor, Satish Agnihotri, he stumbled upon the biased approach of the already existing AgroTech companies. The products from these companies mostly focus on farmers with bigger farmlands. Hence, a marginal farmer can’t afford their services.
Jha wanted to put an end to this disparity. That was when he began researching ways to come up with a cost-effective and easy-to-operate cold storage unit. After comprehensive research, Jha came up with the idea of ‘Subjee Cooler’, cost-efficient cold storage that does not require electricity to operate and does not require significant technical maintenance. With this innovation, Jha also tackled the lack of electric supplies these farmers faced. During a brief conversation, Jha told us, “The high-tech cold storage devices preserve the produce for as long as 6 months.”
Subjee Cooler works on the principle of evaporative cooling and does not require any utilities. However, it requires watering; once a day. The on-farm structure temperature is lower than the ambient temperature by a margin of 5-20°C (depends on ambient relative humidity) and maintains the high relative humidity of above 90 – 95% inside the structure. The low temperature and high relative humidity inside the chamber preserve vegetable crops for short-time: 4 – 6 days. More than 110 such units have been installed across different states in India; Bihar, Odisha, and Maharashtra.
And the good part that the unit is not only effective but also very affordable. For instance, no use of electricity brings the operational cost down at the farm’s end. During the manufacturing, no electrically driven parts are needed in the facility, which brings the production expense down by a significant margin. Additionally, the unit does not require any significant technology that needs maintenance. Consequently, production costs come down further. With its largely organic way of working, Subjee cooler proves to be a benchmark as an Agricultural breakthrough.
It is safe to say that Subjee Cooler is a groundbreaking innovation in the Agricultural world. We don’t say this, numbers do! It was in December last year when Praphula Kido, a marginal farmer from the Balisankara block of Talsara village first came across a Subjee cooler. The concept immediately caught his interest. Soon, he had one constructed in his 1-acre land by the second week of March. The product worked wonderfully well for him and his Capsicum produce stayed fresh for as long as 3 weeks. He also stored green chillies, tomatoes and Bitter Gourds in the facility.
With the Subjee Cooler, farmers can harvest their produce at their will and store it for a few days to realize a better price. Farmers from Kolabira block in Jharsuguda district and Ramagiri block from Gajapati district of Odisha having a Subjee Cooler were able to store and sell their vegetable produce around Rs. 25-30 per Kg and Rs. 30-40 per Kg, respectively. While those without any provision to store their vegetables could only manage a throwaway price of Rs. 7-8 per Kg and Rs. 10-15 per Kg respectively. With this incredible innovation, marginal farmers are getting at least 30% higher price for their produce.