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Solar-powered cold storage technology seeking investment

RASP, a cold storage technology inspired by fruit and vegetable wastage in India, is seeking funding to build a demonstration unit.

A cold storage technology firm aimed at providing solar-powered units for local Indian communities is raising $1 million to build a demonstration unit and invest in marketing and intellectual property protection.

Cold storage is seen as one of the main challenges for India’s agriculture sector as estimates suggest around 40 percent of fruits and vegetables is spoiled and does not get to market.

Nenko Advisors International, a US-based company, has developed ‘RASP’ to help prevent post-harvest losses in emerging markets such as India, according to Bruce Rubin, partner at Nenko.

“We took a trip to India and through attending conferences and additional research we realised that there is little to no refrigeration where people are growing the crops; cold storage facilities only exist in the cities which are often hard to get to from remote areas,” Rubin told Agri Investor.

And solar power made sense because the availability of electricity in rural areas is a limitation to more traditional cold storage technologies, according to Rubin and the Indian National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD).

“Availability of energy is random or minimal at farm-gate or cold-chain initiation level,” reads a December update from NCCD which added that focusing on alternative energies including solar energy is necessary to provide essential cold storage at the farm gate.

Cold storage capacity needs to increase by 40 percent to avoid wastage, according to the National Horticulture Board of India.

The units will cost around $250,000 each and Rubin expects local governments, foundations or public-private partnerships to buy them as part of a developmental initiative or for business. “If you charge a penny a pound [of product] to each farmer, as an owner of the unit you can make your money back after 24-30 months and then go into profit for the next 15-20 years of the unit’s life, so commercial use is possible.”

While the technology was built with India in mind, there is also obvious potential for African countries too, according to Rubin. There are few competitive technologies offering similar cold storage facilities.

Nenko is looking for strategic investment and is approaching a range of post-harvest solutions companies, food retailers and venture capital firms.

Challenges to cold storage in India include changing the land use to industrial use which can take time and limitations in finance from local funding institutes, according to the NCCD.