7 JAN 2019 : In a crucial attempt to minimize loss of agri-produce, insulate producers against wholesale price volatility, and ensure transparent price discovery for farmers in Maharashtra, Ecozen Solutions, successfully piloted its cutting-edge technology solutions, i.e., Ecofrost, Eco-Connect and Lease a Cold Room model.
Ecofrost, an innovative, cost effective, solar power based cold room solution by Ecozen, was set up at the Baramati Mandi. The portable system is being shared by a group of farmers in the mandi. Currently, the system is being used by more than 140 unique farmers to cool and manage their produce using Ecofrost. Most of them have accounted up to 74% increase in their income. The daily average storage in the cold room is 2000 kgs, marking 60- 65% increase over the last three months since installation. Apart from increasing the income, the installation of the unit in the mandi has also increased the attractiveness of the mandi for the buyers and sellers. Due to better infrastructure they prefer to come to Baramati as they know even if there is some material which doesn’t get sold can be kept in Ecofrost and then later sold off to the right market for the right price.
Amol Bodhar, a farmer from Shelgaon, Maharashtra said “We store our vegetables for 2-3 days in Ecofrost, solar cold room installed in the Baramati Mandi and sell it when the prices are good. Earlier we were forced to sell at throw away prices but after the cold room was installed in the mandi, we have reduced losses and also been able to earn more.”
Ecofrost is working to scale up its mandi model which empowers small and marginalized farmers to access cold chain when their crop is mature, at a marginal cost. It has been designed to operate reliably in regions where power supply is inconsistent and in case of power outage, it continues to operate with thermal energy storage based backup. It can be easily transported to different parts of the country depending upon the crop cycle.
Elaborating upon Ecofrost, Prateek Singhal, Co-Founder & COO, Ecozen Solutions said, “About 30% agricultural produce in developing countries is perished due to inadequate cold chain. Through research and sustained engagement with farmers, Ecozen identified this pain point for them and developed Ecofrost. It brings down the operating losses for farmers while retaining the quality of the produce throughout the supply chain. Farmers can also store their produce well and sell when the market rates are favourable.”
Another challenge for small farmers and buyers is affordability of a cold room and insufficient and opaque market linkage. The Lease a Cold Room initiative and Eco- Connect, a market linkage solution by Ecozen addresses these problems effectively and are also being driven in these markets. Eco-connect is a mobile and web-based platform where farmers can connect with organised buyers and re-sellers to sell their commodities. The app fetches commodity prices from different markets and allows the users to make an informed sale decision. Buyers, on the other hand, can source quality produce directly from the farmers.
“Market linkage has been a historic challenge for Indian agriculture. Maharashtra is no different. Eco-Connect uses internet and communication technology to connect agri-producers and bring buyers and sellers across geographies on a common digital platform. We see our platform as a way to source commodity from far-off markets as it is enabled by cold chain” says Devendra Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, Ecozen Solutions.
As a part of the Eco-Connect Beta Program, Ecozen helped a Yavat based Chrysanthemum farmer, Mr. Anna Shitole, to connect to markets in Surat and Hyderabad, wherein he gained Rs.1 Lac more compared to him selling the same produce at a local market. Eco-Connect is complementary to the e-NAM initiative of the Government which is currently focused on non-perishable produce. The central government’s drive to facilitate farmers, trader and buyers under e-NAM already has 455 markets from 13 states integrated to their online portal; this is a major step towards building transparent market linkage for farmers and agri-producers.
Apart from digital linkage, Ecozen also organized an education session for farmers in Nashik, which was attended by 65 rose growing farmers, including influencers and progressive farmers of the region. The group discussed and unearthed the best Post Harvest Management practices to enable farmers to export or connect to farther markets and earn better prices for their produce.
The quantitative impact of such efforts is visible. Ecozen has been successful in connecting farmers from Maharashtra to farther markets and help them earn more for their produce. Excited by early results, Ecozen will soon scale up Ecofrost and Eco-Connect in several other regions in Maharashtra and the country.