New Delhi, July 7
Small-scale strawberry growers from Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra are reaping benefits after renting portable solar-powered cold rooms to preserve their crop, agri-start up firm Ecozen said on Wednesday.
Mahabaleshwar is India's strawberry capital. The district is home to just over 10,000 people but produces 85 per cent of the country's strawberries – close to 20,000 tonnes of the fruit are harvested every year.
According to Ecozen, these marginalised farmers faced disaster earlier this year when dramatic lockdown restrictions closed markets and limited consumer spending. Local tourism and demand for ice cream – both of which create opportunities for strawberry farmers – were also badly hit.
"Across Mahabaleshwar, farmers faced a loss of around USD 2.7 million (around Rs 20 crore) as they were unable to preserve and sell their produce in the domestic market, or export it," it said in a statement.
But the arrival of three portable solar-powered cold rooms created by Ecozen has allowed even small-scale farmers in the district to meet demand in the huge cities of Mumbai and Pune – as well as the further afield markets of Bangalore, Kochi and Chennai, it said.
Farmers are able to rent small amounts of space in the cold rooms – the perfect solution for those with few savings to invest in large-scale storage, it added.
Further, the Pune-based Ecozen is now working with 100 farmers in the region. It has also launched an Eco-Connect strawberry collection centre in the village of Bhillar, extending the cold chain that puts money in the pockets of strawberry farmers.
Digital technology helps Ecozen and their customers ensure strawberries are kept in the best possible condition, it said.
Ecozen CEO and co-founder Devendra Gupta said, "We are delighted to support strawberry farmers at such a critical time. Across India and beyond, lack of a cold chain is a big barrier to rural development. As climate change pushes temperatures higher, the problem will only get worse. Our technology brings security and new opportunities to producers and growers of all kinds."
Ecozen intends to increase its work with Mahabaleshwar's strawberry farmers ahead of the next harvesting season in November.
Ecozen, a partner in climate solutions charity Ashden's Fair Cooling Fund programme, is working with low carbon innovators around the world to scale up the impact of fair cooling solutions that benefit small scale farmers. Last November, the company received a grant of USD 100,000. — PTI
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