An experience as a child in Madhubani district of Bihar made Vikas Jha think and look for storage solutions for small farmers. The problem was storage of various vegetables which they use to grow in their kitchen garden. Now, he is implementing his learning at IIT Mumbai by developing ‘Subjee Cooler’ which is not just helping small and marginal farmers with storage but also empowering them with the bargaining power.
Most of the vegetables, flowers and fruits decays early and the farmers don’t have storage facility and even if they opt for storage, it adds to extra fueling cost. So most of the small farmers at the end of the day in vegetable market feed the vegetables either to stray animals or leave behind in the market.
So, Vikash teamed up with his friends from IIT Mumbai, Sharayu and Gunvant in developing the storage and named it ‘Subjee Cooler’ which can keep vegetables, flowers and fruits fresh for 3 days. Starting as a pilot project in Odisha with financial support from IIT Mumbai, the product worked. They then formed an agri tech company and named it RuKart in the year 2019 and started reaching out to the farmers.
Speaking to News Sense, Vikash said, “before lockdown we successfully installed 50 Subjee coolers and it worked wonder as during the lockdown farmers got its benefit and product started to become popular among the farmers”.
RuKart provides ‘Enhanced’ Evaporative Cooling based atomized cold storage – Subjee Cooler. The Subjee Cooler needs 20 liters water/Day only and no external power like Solar or Electricity saving the fuel cost. The portable short duration storage system is designed for farmers or retailers having lesser than INR Rs. 12,000 ($150) income per month.
Since October 2019, 800+ Subjee Coolers have been installed across 10 states in India, namely, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu. The Subjee Cooler has been instrumental in mitigate distress sale among Vegetable/ Flower/ Fruit/ Mushroom growers. Most of them received 30% – 50%+ higher value due to freshness and reduce loss even after 5 – 7 days. A Subjee Cooler saves about 4,500 Kg of CO2 per Year i.e. equivalent to 250 numbers of fully grown trees. If maintained better, it can work for 8-10 years.
Now with success of Subjee cooler among the small farmers, the vegetable retailers in the cities like Bengaluru and Surat are also installing Subjee Coolers for storing vegetables, flowers and fruits at their shop.
The World Economic Forum has recognized the ‘Subjee Cooler’ as 1 of 9 Youth-led innovations that are protecting the planet. Government of India has recognized its innovation through its Twitter handle @MyGovIndia for its role in transforming the country.
According to an estimate, India has 129 million (around 5 crore) small farmers of which 45% are vegetables, fruits and flowers farmers. With the project successfully working in more than 500 villages, Vikash and his team plans to reach out to every small and marginal farmer in every districts and blocks of the country with not just the storage solutions but also empowering them with their farm product.
Report by Joydeep Dasgupta, Editor, News Sense