Early this 12 months when farmers within the area had been promoting tomatoes at a throwaway worth, Maharashtra’s Nitin Ramesh Dhingre took a good move. He transformed the contemporary produce into dried merchandise utilizing a photo voltaic dryer.
“When there’s sufficient provide available in the market, costs scale back. Earlier, we had been promoting tomatoes for Rs 50 per crate of 20 kilos, which involves Rs 2.5 for 1 kg. We had been unable to even get its price of manufacturing. Moreover, we’ve to spend on harvesting the crop and transporting it to the market,” the 38-year-old farmer tells The Higher India.
“Since final December, I began drying the surplus produce. For an identical quantity, for which I might get Rs 50, now I earn Rs 350,” provides Nitin, who grows tomatoes, grapes, and onions on a five-acre land in his village Matur.
Previously 5 months, he has been capable of earn an extra earnings of Rs 1 lakh by promoting extra produce that may in any other case go to waste. “Initially, many farmers questioned me on why was I investing in a photo voltaic dryer and what profit it may convey me. In addition they mocked me saying it could not be a worthwhile determination, however at the moment, they themselves are prepared to make use of the photo voltaic dryers,” smiles Nitin.
Together with 13 farmers, he has been capable of set up a three-tier photo voltaic dryer with the capability to concurrently dry as much as 500 kg of produce in a single cycle. Like Nitin, at the least 50,000 farmers throughout the nation have been capable of reap advantages from extra produce, because of Indore-based Varun Raheja.
Varun runs Raheja Photo voltaic Meals Processing Pvt Ltd to assist farmers improve the shelf life of their produce and derive higher earnings from it.
Foldable photo voltaic dryers on the rescue
Varun, a mechanical engineering graduate, spent 4 years of his faculty specializing in researching farmer suicide charges and methods to extend their earnings.
“I really like nature and I hate waste. At any time when I see a fruit popping out of a tree that’s simply depending on soil and water, I understand it as magic. At any time when I noticed farmers throwing their produce, I might marvel about methods to protect it in order that they’ll promote it for a greater worth. I discovered photo voltaic dryers as a sustainable alternative,” the 26-year-old tells The Higher India.
Since his first 12 months in faculty, Varun did an internship underneath Padma Shri Janak Palta McGilligan, who teaches some great benefits of solar energy to college students in her studying centre. By the top of engineering, he got here up with an answer to assist farmers flip extra produce into value-added merchandise through the use of photo voltaic dryers.
To attain this, he utilized his mechanical engineering experience to reinforce photo voltaic dryers, creating foldable and moveable ones with capacities starting from 20 to 100 kilos.
“We’ve got two varieties of designs — the primary is foldable and moveable, and the opposite is a set polyhouse design. We’ve got designed foldable ones, particularly for small and marginal farmers. These are 40 toes lengthy photo voltaic dryers that may be folded right into a five-foot field. This helps us set up them in distant areas,” says Varun, who has priced a 20 kg photo voltaic dryer at Rs 24,000 — at the least half the worth of these obtainable available in the market. Ranging from 5 kg, he has photo voltaic dryers as much as a capability of 1,000 kg.
Thus far, he has put in over 3,500 photo voltaic dryers within the rural and distant farms of the nation together with Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal and Gujarat. Each month, the farmers are capable of month-to-month course of 115 metric tonnes of contemporary produce, which might in any other case go to waste, into helpful merchandise like dry powder, flakes, and toppings.
“We’ve got reached out to farmers in distant areas the place they can’t entry the market simply. For instance, pineapples grown in Manipur are bought at Rs 250 per piece in markets like Delhi and Mumbai. However domestically, they’ve a worth of Rs 5. Nonetheless, a bulk of the produce just isn’t capable of attain the skin markets,” he shares.
“So, we’re capable of assist them course of extra produce in tribal distant areas and get a greater earnings. We’ve got been capable of enhance farm earnings by 50 %,” he provides.
Rising shelf life by a 12 months
Engaged on a self-sustainable mannequin, the photo voltaic dryers don’t require energy or upkeep. Within the water-proof dryers, slices of greens are positioned and inside two to a few days, the produce is sun-dried and able to be transformed into value-added merchandise.
For instance, sun-dried tomatoes are used to arrange oats and soups in addition to pizza toppings. Uncooked bananas are transformed into banana chips, grapes into raisins, and onions into onion flakes. Varun says, “Each vegetable and fruit, even a watermelon, might be dried right into a value-added product. There may be an infinite scope and demand for such merchandise.”
Apparently, the dryer dehydrates moisture of the contemporary produce in such a method that it retains the style, color, aroma, and vitamins of the product, he says. Not solely this however the shelf lifetime of perishable meals merchandise can also be elevated to a minimal of 1 12 months or extra with out utilizing any components or preservatives.
Varun has partnered with at the least 170 organisations like Sahaydri Farms, PRADAN, and TATA Belief to interact with farmers on the grassroots stage. After putting in photo voltaic dryers, his crew trains them to transform the produce into dried merchandise.
Aside from this, he additionally helps farmers within the advertising and marketing of their dried merchandise by promoting them to their community of 200 FMCG corporations in India. On the decentralised assortment centres established in virtually each state, the dried merchandise are collected. After high quality checks and sorting based mostly on color and measurement, the merchandise are sterilised and packaged to be provided to FMCG manufacturers like Happilo and Chaayos.
“We’re not simply promoting photo voltaic dryers, we’re constructing an ecosystem the place farmers discover ways to practise this know-how,” says Varun, who goals to onboard three lakh farmers by the year-end.
“Actually, I had by no means imagined that I might even attain this stage. It’s unbelievable more often than not that we’ve been capable of attain the remotest areas throughout the nation. At the moment, I’m engaged on a mannequin through which I’m able to utilise papaya peels and seeds within the beauty trade. And thereby assist farmers double their earnings,” he provides.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; All photographs courtesy: Raheja Photo voltaic Meals Processing Pvt Ltd.