Focus: Waste and Energy
Location: Nagpur, India
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 40% of all fresh food produced in India, worth 8.3 billion dollars per year, perishes before it can even reach customers. Although the country is not unique in its food losses, it’s difficult to reconcile this fact with two others; India is not only the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, but also home to more than 250 million people who go to bed hungry every day. Food waste also leads to a loss of income for smallholder farmers and higher prices for consumers. In terms of the environment, food waste represents the squandering of resources such as fertilizer and fuel, as well as the harming of our planet. For instance, rotting food releases methane, a greenhouse gas which is 23 times more potent than CO2. One solution to India’s food waste problem lies in refrigeration. According to a recent study by the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, cold storage facilities are only available for 10% of India’s perishable food. Today, one company has chosen to fill the gap and drive food security sustainably with clean energy.
Ecofrost Technologies, an affiliate of Ecozen Solutions, has created an affordable solution to food waste by developing a solar-powered cold storage system. Instead of batteries, the system has a thermal storage unit which can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather. In addition, the system is uniquely designed to control compartment cooling with regular cooling, helping to increase the shelf life of up to five metric tons of agricultural produce. After the initial price of five to six Rupees, customers pay almost zero running costs and can expect to increase their profits by 80-100%. This opens the door for Ecofrost to create a network of village level entrepreneurs who can provide cold storage for food and medicine in off-grid, rural areas across India. This will not only help smallholder farmers and doctors increase the shelf life of their products, but it will also reduce waste and protect the planet.
Ecofrost’s promising innovation has already won Dupont’s The Power of Shunya prize, as well as seed funding from Villgro, an incubator for social enterprises. After successful pilots in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Ecofrost now plans to manufacture 20,000 solar-powered cold storage units in the next five years. Could this be the missing link in India’s food supply chain? Only time will tell, but Ecofrost certainly provides some food for thought.
Environmental impact: Avoided food waste & avoided use of fossil fuels, including avoided emission of GHGs and harmful substances.
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