The Optimist Citizen

This Bihar lad is helping farmers increase the shelf life of their produce

Nikky Kumar Jha from Bhagalpur, Bihar has developed ‘Sabjikothi’- a device that uses microclimate based unique technology to maintain the freshness of fruits and vegetables and increase their shelf life for anywhere between 5 to 30 days depending on the type of crop stored in.

While India continues to fail in feeding its large population every day, a large chunk of the fresh produce from farms gets wasted because of its delayed transportation to the markets and end consumers. Fresh fruits and vegetables coming directly from the fields have a short shelf life and do not make themselves to the traders in good time for their consumption. This adds to the burden of small farmers to generate a bulk of their income from horticultural produce. Ineffective transportation chain and underdeveloped storage systems ad to the woes.

Nikki Kumar, an entrepreneur from Bihar has designed a solution to preserve the freshness of the farm produce and increase their shelf-life.With the assistance of his professor at Nalanda University, he developed a cooling apparatus to preserve the freshness of horticultural produce. The initial prototype was successful, but the product marred the affordability parameter with the price going over INR 12 lakhs. After extensive research and improvisation for 1.5 years, the pilot of ‘Sabjikothi’ was conducted in July this year. And the results brought along the Eureka moment Nikki Kumar had been long waiting for.

Sabjikothi functions like a self-adaptable, ethylene oxidizing insulated chamber that inhibits the growth of any pathogens, as well as regulates the activity of antioxidant enzymes acting on the fruits and vegetables. The entire setup is easily mountable, can be unloaded from wheels, and can doubly act as on-field & on-market storage. The preservator is highly low maintenance that requires only 20 watts of power to function on. This comes along with a battery back-up of one day and an option of solar charging. Moreover, it can help retain the moisture of the fruits and vegetables kept within it with only 1 litre of water requirement per day. The setup costs INR 10,000 for farmers and comes with a storage capacity of 250 kgs. A bigger version of the preservator has also been designed for traders costing INR 15,000 with a storage capacity of 500 kgs. 

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Turning the storage innovation into social-agricultural intervention, Nikki set up SaptKrishi Scientific Pvt. Ltd. The firm has been generating employment opportunities for the families of small farmers. The organization buys all the ungraded farm produce from small-scale peasants at the fair market value. This cuts down the hard-work the farmers put into selling the produced crops in the local markets themselves. The produce that remains unsold is sent into agro-processing units to add value and make them usable as raw materials. The manpower required in the processing is provided by the unemployed children of the farmers. This enables building a strong connection between the organization and farmer families.

While talking with the team of The Optimist Citizen, Nikky Kumar Jha shares an anecdote of a young delivery man in Bhagalpur who transformed his life after joining hands with Jha’s team. With only an employee team of three, Saurabh used to conduct home delivery of food products. Having expanded his work after meeting Jha’s team at SaptKrishi, Saurabh today runs a small brand by the name ‘Sabziwala’ and has employed 20 people working under him. Taking his delivery capacity from 50-60 kgs per day, he now deals with 25 quintals of produce every day. 

Sabjikothi Preservator

SaptKrishi Scientific Pvt. Ltd. currently has a full-fledged team of 12 core members and over 200 employees working with it. The venture has been working closely with institutions such as IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Patna to tackle challenges on the way. As one of the winners of Arunachal Pradesh Social Entrepreneurship Meet (APSEM) 2020, the enterprise will soon be working in collaboration with the state government of Arunachal Pradesh for the expansion of their innovation. 

Being awarded the 3M – CII YICA 2020 award under the category of rural innovation, Sabjikothi hopes for a wide range of possibilities in the arena of social awareness about this innovation with national and international media coverage. The prize money triggered the pilot of the project and is also being used in upscaling the innovation. Its makers seek reassurance from the award that they are working in the right direction. 

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