IIT-M startup develops solar-powered cold storage for farmers

IIT Madras-incubated startup Tan90 has developed a portable, solar-powered cold storage device in order to preserve farm products and to reduce the wastage of agricultural produce and increase income of the farmers.

The company worked in collaboration with the Murugappa Chettair Research Center, which is a part of Murugappa Group. This solar-powered cold storage device has the capacity to store 300-500 Kg of produce. The device can also be used in storing dairy products and vaccines as stated by Satyanarayanan Seshadri, lead research and assistant professor Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras.

Organic dairy companies, commercial air conditioning companies, online food retailers are in conversations in order to deploy this device in their supply chain, according to Seshadri. The device has been designed to overcome the wastage of natural products like fruits and vegetables which costs around 92,000 crore annually, as per the report of Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and technology. The first trial product of this device is set up near Madurantakam in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu.

According to the researchers, this sort of cold storage facilities in India, for agricultural produce lacks by 10 million tons. As India is blessed with perennial solar energy, developing a solar powered cold storage with thermal energy storage as backup can help meet this shortage using abundantly available renewable energy that is best suited for rural or decentralized developments. This is a solution for small farmers with use of thermal energy storage or thermal battery instead of electricity battery. said Seshadri.

He added that farmers can improve the quality of their product with this refrigeration mechanism. Currently there exists 4-6 hours gap in between depositing of the product by farmers and its collection from the procurement centers. Hence refrigerating the product in this gap increases the quality of the product.

The dairy product like milks rejection rate will be around 25-30 percent during the hot seasons, due to lack of proper refrigeration. This portable cold storage will be the best solution. In tests the device has maintained the quality of the milk when delivered to customers.

Sheshadri also stated The device is priced higher than the conventional electric cold storage units Rs.6.5 lakh per unit. As a startup device we hope to offer the device at economical cost by scaling up operations such as reduced solar panel cost. At this point we have not done optimization on pricing, solar panel costs can come down while scaling up operations. Said Seshaderi.

The device is a part of a larger collaboration with Murugappa Chettiar Research Center to pilot an integrated solar village in Maduranthakam, Tamil Nadu. Solar powered cold storage systems, dryers, pumps and street lights are products currently developed for the solar village.