mid-day turns 41: Coolest of the crop

Updated: 13 July, 2020 10:34 IST | Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

With markets shutting and farmers selling harvest at throwaway prices due to lack of storage and transport, a vegetable cooler and an e-mandi idea by IIT-Bombay alumni come to the rescue

The Subjee Cooler can store vegetables and fruits for up to a week and works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Farmers with subjee coolers have managed to sell their veggies at nearly 30 per cent higher prices
The Subjee Cooler can store vegetables and fruits for up to a week and works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Farmers with subjee coolers have managed to sell their veggies at nearly 30 per cent higher prices

Vikash Jha, Gunvant Nehete and Sharayu Kulkarni
Founders, RuKart

The team's Subjee Coolers preserved produce during lockdown, and portal allowed direct-to-customer sale

Small-scale farmers, who had been harvesting their rabi crop with the hope of a good turnover, were hit by the lack of transport facilities, labour and access to storage when India shuttered in March. Desperate to avoid wastage and put food on the table, many sold the harvested produce at throwaway prices. "Most smallholders don't have the means to own industrial storage facilities," says Vikash Jha, co-founder of RuKart Technologies, a Kalyan-based start-up that had helped build Subjee Coolers in Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar. While farmers with no access to storage took to distress sale, those who had invested in these coolers were able to wait for the situation to stabilise and sell at nearly 30 per cent higher prices. Jha, 29, who hails from a family of farmers in Madhubani district of Bihar, along with fellow IIT Bombay mates and co-founders of RuKart, Gunvant Nehete and Sharayu Kulkarni, developed a web-based platform to help farmers who had invested in their technology in the lockdown. The portal allowed them to sell their produce to customers directly, without additional charges.

"Smallholders from Odisha's Jharsuguda and Gajapati districts could store and sell their veggies for R25 to R30 per kg and R30 to R40 per kg, while those without storage provisions managed R7 to R8 per kg and R10 to R15 per kg, respectively," Jha shares. As fruits and vegetables are perishable, they need immediate post-harvest attention, i.e., lower temperature and high relative humidity — conditions achieved in cold storage. "However, mechanical and solar cold storage options are energy and capital-intensive," he adds.

Vikash Jha, Gunvant Nehete and Sharayu Kulkarni
Vikash Jha, Gunvant Nehete and Sharayu Kulkarni

Their cooler doesn't require fuel or electricity; it just needs watering once a day. It works on the principle of evaporative cooling — reduction in temperature owing to evaporation of a liquid, in this case water, which removes latent heat from the surface. "It works like an earthen matki. The temperature inside is lower than ambient temperature by a margin of 5°C to 20°C and there's high relative humidity of over 90 to 95 per cent. Non-tuber crops can thus be preserved for an extra six days," says Jha. He adds that the cost depends on the size, and masonry and transportation charges.

During the lockdown, the team built 10 more coolers across the three states, including in Nashik. "We also train women entrepreneurs to build and supervise the project." RuKart has orders lined up in Yavatmal, and is working on making the website accessible to farmers outside Odisha. Because three in four farmers in India work on marginal landholdings, they aim to empower them to understand what to sell, and decide their prices. "We're also working on IoT-driven (Internet of Things) solutions, and will create products that reduce the input cost and mitigate risks in cultivation," he signs off.

Log on to @rukarttechnologies on Facebook

Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and a complete guide from food to things to do and events across Mumbai. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates.

Mid-Day is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@middayinfomedialtd) and stay updated with the latest news

First Published: 13 July, 2020 03:44 IST

Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.com

Subscribe
loading image
This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK