Coolify - a micro cold storage solution
Post-harvest agricultural supply chain constitutes harvesting, storage, processing transportation & marketing. Losses in this value chain are a critical bottleneck for global food security. Most of the low-income countries have 30-40% post-harvest losses in perishable horticultural produce resulting from high ambient temperatures and humidity.
Cold storages therefore lie at the very heart of agricultural logistics. India provides a perfect example of the importance of cold storage. India ranks 2nd globally in fruit and vegetables (F&V) production and has a thriving $12B cold storage industry. However, conventional storage systems in these markets are highly centralized around major export cities and involve huge capital expenditure. Furthermore, 80% of total capacity is utilized the storage of potatoes resulting in no room for horticultural produce. This leads to a spoilage rate of over 30% of F&V.
Coolify is a micro-cold storage business solution to serve the back end of F&V supply chains in India. It envisions decentralizing the cold storage market by setting up cheap modular units close to the harvest points. We propose to set up single chamber vacuum insulated panel (VIP) based cold storage units. Each unit has a capacity of approximately 1500 cubic feet, stores 5-10MT of perishables and has a capital expenditure of $8,500 ~ $12,000 compared to $1.5M required for traditional bulk cold storages. The cold storage has been designed using the modern VIP technology that has extraordinary insulation levels, thereby minimizing the energy requirements. It further allows the whole system to be powered by a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
The Fruits & Vegetables (F&V) cold chain suffers from four major problems:
1. Food grains (wheat) and potatoes occupy the majority of the cold storage capacity. Wherever you might expect some free capacity, they are generally located around export cities far off from the harvest points. This makes the transportation costs prohibitively high. Dedicated storage facility catering to the need of perishable produce does not exist.
2. Due to lack of any immediate storage, farmers have to reach the market immediately post harvest. This forces them to sell in auction markets (mandis) at prices determined by the traders. A short-term storage of 10-12 days will give them the crucial power to look out for alternative markets for better pricing. This will also reduce the daily transportation cost and time incurred to avail the local markets almost daily. Furthermore, price instability is the most common reason cited by farmers for not growing cash crops and relying on much stable food grain production. The ability of farmers to hold their produce for longer will smooth out peaks and troughs in the volatile mandis. In turn, the stabilization will mitigate farmers’ loses.
3. Currently there are a very few ripening facilities available to farmers in India. Consequently, they are forced to use harmful chemicals to ripen F&V post harvest. This is injurious to health and goes against the organic farming mission. This problem can be addressed by deploying cheap storage units called Ripening Chambers.
4. Cold Storage is the most energy intensive part of agricultural supply chains. Lack of adequate energy supply in rural areas and rising energy rates are serious problems faced by the cold storage sector. The need for adopting various energy saving methods is now being increasingly realized. Insulation panels provide high energy efficiency and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems eliminate grid power dependency. The pairing of thermal ice storage with PV systems provides a reliable system without expensive batteries, in a region dominated by intermittent electric grids and access to sunlight.
Coolify addresses these problems by offering a facility which is accessible, available for short term storage and within the monetary and physical reach of an average farmer.
The Coolify team is strongly committed to the overall vision of the organization i.e. to improve the livelihood of the critically marginalized farmers in the developing countries. We have ensured that we stick to this core principle in all formats of our intervention. We believe that our enterprise will be able to prosper and be successful only if we have full trust and support of all the key stakeholders in the agricultural value chain.