Improving earning capabilities of small and marginal farmers through solar post-harvest solutions. Covestro innovations helps Thottiyam Banana Producer Group improve earnings of 5000+ small farmers and nutrition levels of young mothers & diabetic persons
The practice is about bringing in sustainable social transformation for the underserved communities by introducing Covestro innovations in the food security domain. This holistic post-harvest ecosystem aims to improve the earning capabilities of small and marginal farmers by reducing wastage of agriculture commodities and creating opportunities for value-addition. This intervention is a game changer in the Indian subcontinent where more than 12 Million tons fruits and 21 Million tons vegetables of total approximate value USD 4.4 Billion were lost in 2019 due to lack of a well-functioning post-harvest ecosystems.
Thottiyam is renowned for its banana farms but lacks ways to process its produce and protect it from the vagaries of climate and inclement market forces. To effectively address the stated pain points, Covestro launched a Public Private Partnership project called SUSTAIN which is co-funded by KFW-DEG (the German Development Bank) and Covestro. It identified such communities and went on to offer simple yet innovative technologies such as farm-level solar dryers and cold storages, to help create opportunities by allowing the farmers to preserve their produce. The Solar Green House Dryer (GHD) which uses Covestro’s polycarbonate became an instant success and so far 1000+ units have been installed in Indian Subcontinent, ASEAN and Africa. GHD dries various products including fruits, vegetables etc. in a hygienic manner, allowing the farming communities to open new revenue streams. Inclusive Business team of Covestro brought this sustainable technology to India through this project. The Banana fruit is dried in the state of the art Green House solar driers to remove 80 percent of water in it without loss of any of its nutrients. This process is clean and cost effective. The dry fruit has a good keeping quality, taste and shelf life. This venture is first of its kind on a commercial scale. Two years down the line from when the project first started, the farmers were able to increase their revenue, in addition to achieving a positive shelf-life as significant amount of Banana was getting wasted due to the lack of processing and infrastructure. In short, this dried banana now serves as mid-day meals, snacks and more, providing the required nutrition which was all easily achieved due to the entrepreneurial attitude of the farmers.
Benefit to the Farmers: Farm ripe and unsold bananas could not be transported to markets because of its perishable nature. To avoid the distress sale, the fruits are put to dehydration using GHD. This practice substantially reduces the post-harvest loss & improves farmer’s incomes. GHDs installed have a platform with 500 Sq. ft drying area. A GHD can accommodate 4000 fruits per batch to deliver 100 kg of dried fruit in 4 days. The cost of 4000 units of bananas = INR 6000 (1 banana @ INR 1.50) Ripening and processing (INR1/unit) = INR 4000 Packing and Labor cost (INR 0.6/fruit) = INR 2400 Capital repayment & interest/INR 2 = INR 8000 Total production cost = INR 16400 Total selling price for 4000 units = INR 30000 Net profit for 4000 units of fruits = INR 13600 (INR 3.40 /fruit) % profit = 82.9 This has been acknowledged by NABCONS (Nabard consultancy services). GHD has also certified as the 1000 most efficient solutions by Solar Impulse Foundation.
Challenges : The harvesting activity extends over three months during the season, and with any fluctuating marketing conditions the revenue of the banana growers is directly impacted. The climatic vagaries of wind, high day temperature and water shortage affects the yield, resulting in the bananas being ripened forcibly, thereby reducing the income. The perishable nature of the fruit does not permit storage and the high volume of demand, during season brings down the selling price . Enabler : With the support from Covestro India Pvt Ltd and ASSIST, they over the challenges, they were able to convert the ripe banana fruit into a solar dehydrated product using polycarbonate based greenhouse dryer technology. The unique solution helped the farmer to meet their production cost and manage the unsold ripened produces by value additions. The value added products sell in the form of dried whole banana, honey dipped dried banana , banana chews, bar , rolls etc . Now this solar greenhouse technology initiated with banana crop has now been well spread and adopted by the farming communities across the southern part of the India, where over 40 commodities are being dried. In addition to that solution is well recognized by Tamil Nadu Engg Deptt and empaneled the solutions to avail subsidy benefits up to 40%
The elements that enable this ecosystem to become sustainable and replicable are: 1. Farmer led activity. Value addition is done by the farmer 2. Enabling a farmer to become an entrepreneur 3. Use of clean energy. The GHD is a major innovation 4. Contribution of women stakeholders in the success of the project 5. Use of locally available, organically grown fruits 6. Promoting the partnership in the form of Farmer producer organizations 7. Improving nutrition levels of the most vulnerable e.g. : young mothers, children, diabetic patients 8. Adoption of multi-modal channels for distributions: online e-commerce and physical logistics network 9. High quality of processes adopted and importance given to hygiene GHD is a versatile solution for addressing climate change, improving agriculture sector’s productivity and improving earning capabilities of farmers. It is sustainable & replicable across geographies, communities, cultures.
1. Impact Evaluation of Green House Solar Dryers: An Empirical study by NABARD Consultancy Services, 2018 [NABCONS] – Attached to the email along with this document 2. https://www.covestro.com/en/company/strategy/attitude/comfortzone/solar-dryer 3. https://www.covestro.com/en/sustainability/lighthouse-projects/ideas-that-bear-fruits 4. The Solar Impulse Foundation has certified the Green House Dryer and the world’s 1000 most efficient solutions. (https://solarimpulse.com/efficient-solutions/solar-green-house-dryer-ghd)
There was no negative impact on the practice due to COvid-19. Instead, the GHD based ecosystem made agriculture more sustainable & remunerative, which is the need of the hour. There can be no better time to establish Public-Private partnerships for improving access to post-harvest technology, market-linkages, finances & training to create “agro-entrepreneurs”. Our solutions can support a steadily rising, inclusive and sustainable growth trajectory for the country. Other key initiatives that we develop include creating commodity-based clusters, promoting innovation, research & development in food security and undertaking capacity building to enhance competitiveness of food processing industry in a sustainable manner. These measures directly contribute towards the mission of ‘doubling farmers’ income by 2022’ by the Govt. of India and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)
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A group of 13 primary Banana producer entities joined together to form a business unit (Madhur fruits) & to implement this revolutionary project based on the GHD. Each member grows about 10 acres of Native Banana varieties namely Poovan, Karpooravalli and Elakki. The farmers have significantly improved their earnings. There is improvement of nutrition levels of the most vulnerable e.g. : young mothers, children, diabetic patients