IIT Grad’s Low-Cost Innovation Helps Farmers in Lockdown Earn 30% More!

RuKart Technologies, a Thane-based agri-tech startup has developed a low-cost innovative machine called the Subjee Cooler to help marginalised farmers get access to cold storage facilities Inspiration Behind the Startup: Vikash is a graduate of IIT-Bombay, and after graduating in 2016, he started working on a three-year-long research project, which was funded by IIT-B, and headed by the institute’s own Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA). The focus of the study was farmers in Maharashtra and Odisha, and aimed to understand the interaction between marginalised farmers and technology.

The findings from his research showed that most of the agricultural-technology available in the market did not suit the needs of a marginalised farmer, nor was it affordable for them.

Based on the findings from the research project, Vikash and two of his batchmates —Sharayu Kulkarni and Gunavant Nehete started working towards developing affordable machinery to reduce input cost and mitigate cultivation risks for farmers.

The Subjee Cooler was one of the first products that they designed, and the work was sponsored by the CTARA department.

Subjee Cooler:

The cooler is a brick-and-mortar storage facility fitted with a galvanised iron tank, with a covering on top. This simple device works on the principle of evaporative cooling — a phenomenon when water evaporates, and draws energy from its surroundings, producing a cooling effect. Nitrogen balls in the cooling chamber ensure the temperature of the tank is lower than the ambient temperature by a margin of 5-15 degrees Celsius. It also helps to maintain the humidity 85-90 per cent higher than what is outside. The Cooler does not require any other utilities like electricity. Yet it requires, watering once a day.

Vikash and his team have also developed two other useful products: Peek-Rakshak — a defence system to minimalism human-animal conflict, and Treadle Pump, a foot-operated water pump.

Adopting the Technology:

In September 2019, RuKart approached district administrative officers in Maharashtra, and Odisha to work with them and set up these units across villages under their jurisdiction. According to Bhairab Singh Patel, the District Administrative Officer of Sundargarh, and Jayati Ekka, till date, 54 Subjee Coolers have been set up in Sundargarh, Odisha, and more than 100 farmers have benefited from it.

Subjee Cooler- a boon during lockdown: 25-year old Sajan Kiru, a farmer in Balisankara, Odisha, has been using the Subjee Cooler since December to store the harvest from his 2.5 acre land.

“Every year, the harvest during summer months is poor. The vegetables go bad within one or two days, so we rush to sell everything. Last year, there were times when I sold a kilo of brinjal for Rs 10, and sometimes lesser. But this year, we had the Subjee Cooler, and it can hold 60 kilos of my produce. Owing to the lockdown, there was a severe disruption in the supply chain of agricultural produce. I could not take my harvest to the market because the local mandis were shut. At that time, the Cooler was very useful. I was able to store the tomatoes, brinjals, cauliflowers, and long green beans in the cooler for up to five days. In May, I was able to earn Rs 1,500 compared to last year, when I earned less than Rs 800,” says Sajan.

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