Indian Students Create a Solar Powered Fridge That Can Be a Boon to Farmers
India has been facing a huge food inflation issue. Food prices are hefty and are really hitting pockets hard. One of the major issues with food supply is storage. Even with massive investment in food storage by the government, issues arise which leads to a tremendous amount of spoilage. It is estimated that India loses around 30 per cent of food production every year due to wastage and contamination, which is a huge concern. To address the wastage issue, students of IIT Kharagpur have developed a micro cold storage system has been successfully tested in a Karnataka farmland.
The device has been developed at Science and Technology entrepreneurship Park (STEP) of the IIT. It is made by mechanical engineering student Vivek Pandey and his team. They call their start-up, Ecofrost Technologies. The team is now ready to move out of campus and set up a manufacturing and assembly unit in Pune by next month.
According to Vivek Pandey it is a one of a kind device with no running costs to the farmer and works for all the 12 months of the year.
The cold storage system makes use of an exclusive thermal storage methodology. This technique controls the cooling of compartments in tandem with regular cooling. The system is powered using a 2.5 KW- 3.5 KW solar panel. The power generated through these panels is stored in a thermal storage unit that can power the system for more than 36 hours, in case of bad weather. The compressor in this device can run at various speeds depending on the need of cooling.
The team wants to make this an off-grid device which means it should require no electricity from the grid. This will be great for farmers living in far off villages with limited facilities to sell their produce. They believe that by increasing the shelf life of agriculture produce, farmers’ livelihood would improve by reducing losses and allowing better price realization.
Being an agricultural equipment, the micro cold storage system has a capacity of 5 metric tonnes. It comes for a price of Rs 5 to 6 lakhs, about the price of a tractor.
The team targets to manufacture 20,000 such cold storage units in the next five years. The have also won the first prize worth Rs 10 lakh at the national university competition ‘DuPont: The Power of Shunya.’
This is a great new product and if will be economical for farmers as their fresh produce will fetch a higher price. They wouldn’t even have to worry about spoilage or energy costs. It is great to know that they are ready to manufacture the device that will hopefully generate interest in the field and will invite more people to join the untapped solar innovation market. This also has the potential to make headway in the wholesale market thereby saving food products and bringing fresh produce to many more people. We wish these fine young lads all the best for their endeavors.