By Varun Raheja*

It is a known fact that wastage of fruits and vegetables is high in India due to lack of infrastructure for processing and storage. One company that has been working to reduce wastage and increase farmer’s income is Raheja Solar Food Processing Pvt Ltd based in Indore. With the use of scientific methods they are able to help farmers. With the help of advanced Solar Dryers the farmers are able to dehydrate their produce and sell at higher price.

What is the philosophy behind your venture of helping rural population?

Agrarian country like India and the existing socio-economic structure make farmers the backbone of the society. Almost all  food items consumed by us are produced by them. Hence, the whole population depends upon them. However, in spite their hard work their living conditions are poor. Vagaries of weather due to climate change has further pushed them to the edges.

In India, we experience either abundance in season or lack in off season. The main problem of this imbalance is the low shelf life of food products. In absence of cold chain  transport of perishable fruits and vegetables becomes impossible without it getting damaged or spoiled. For example, Victoria queen pineapple, a special variety from Manipur are sold at the rates of Rs. 200-250 per piece in metropolitan cities, but the farmers are getting a meagre amount of Rs. 5-10 per piece. If it is to be processed the produce will fetch  double- triple rates.

What are the technologies that you use to process vegetables?

Solar dryers provides controlled and optimized heat to the product which considerably increases its quality. As compared to naturally drying in the sun, the dryer protects the fresh product from UV radiation, dust, dirt, insects and pollution and preserves its nutrients value.

In addition to this, the compact size of the dryer enables small farmers to be a part of the movement. The self-sufficient dryer can be installed anywhere as per convenience. It has been installed on a variety of site sizes ranging from 750 Sq feet residential terrace to about 10 acres of farm.  

Further, our dryers can be customized as per requirement and budget. We have installed dryers of sizes starting from 5 kg capacity for domestic purposes to 1000 kg for industrial purposes.

The farmers can preserve their excess produce or daily leftovers without losing its natural colour, taste, fragrance, and nutrients. The solar-dried products processed in the solar dryer can be further stored for more than a year without using any chemical or preservative. This allows farmers to have more market control, as and when the rates are high, they can sell their produce.

The solar dryers have been modified and upgraded as per the feedback of our hundreds of users in the past few years.

Some of the salient features of our Solar Dryer:

  1. DIY & Foldable design
  2. No electricity required
  3. Portable and Modular design
  4. Light-weight
  5. Designed with FSSAI norms
  6. Work 300 days a year       

How do you find market for them?

There is a sustainable model for processing and marketing products whereby every stakeholder has something in it for them. Many a times marketing becomes a big huddle to keep such business proposition going. Solar dryers are sold to them and in return EASTERN HIMALAYAS company have a definite buy back policy. It is marketed in India and abroad through various channels including social media

In which regions are you working?

Solar dryers are successfully installed in almost all states of India, but majorly is operational in central India; where we have our head office. Besides, our products stretch across the north-eastern state’s where the need is higher.  Owing to poor connectivity with the rest of India, most of the precious and chemical free produce of the north east get wasted. Using fold-able solar dryers,  penetrating to interior areas are impacting livelihoods positively. 

Using our own developed solar dryer, micro food processing unites are created with solar dryer and help them connect to the macro economy and reach their products to different parts of the country.

What is the impact on the rural population?

Indian farmers incur Rs 92,651 Crore per year in post-harvest losses. Ironically, acc. to the high-level Dalwai committee report, an investment of  Rs 89,375 Crore —a figure marginally lower than the annual post-harvest losses is required to develop the formal chain post-harvest. The wastage of huge amounts of produce leads to high market prices of produce.  Therefore the preservation of these produce and making it available throughout the year is the way forward.

For example, at the end of 2019, the prices of onions were very high. If onions when available at Rs. 1-2 per kilo gram just a month or two before, were dehydrated and sold in the market during the lean harvest season, it would benefit both the farmer and the consumer.

Currently, they are supporting more than 10,000 farmers using our model. As Raheja says ‘we are exponentially growing every year in terms of supporting number of farmers and marketing their solar dried products’. Our aim is to support at least 2,00,000 small and marginal farmers in next 5 years using our affordable technology and market support.

*Director Raheja Solar Foods