Solution overview

Our Solution

Peer-to-Peer sharing of productive solar energy services

Tagline

To enable small and marginal farmers create more value from agriculture by providing them affordable access to the right technologies

Pitch us on your solution

Agriculture is powered by the sun  therefore there is a great synergy between photosynthesis and photovoltaic power. To bring about this synthesis, Coolcrop in collaboration with  SOLshare intends to create a revolutionary new approach to bring affordable solar powered cooling as a service  business model to the farming communities of Bangladesh leveraging an innovative  peer-to-peer solar energy trading platform.

While Coolcrop's  distributed cold storage systems shall address the twin problem of post harvest losses at farm-gate and lack of a fair & remunerative pricing for the farm produce , SOLshare who has pioneered in creating the next generation micro-energy transition model 3.0 by interconnecting solar home power systems in peer-to-peer networks, monetizing excess solar energy along the value chain in real time

When combined with mobile money both the solutions shall go a long way in empowering the Bangladeshi farming communities  earn a sustainable income from the sun.

What is the problem you are solving?

A recent survey reveals that post-harvest losses of Fruits and Vegetables are in the  range between 23.6 to 43.5 percent of the total production in Bangladesh

Crops like tomatoes, which can be produced throughout the year and therefore are a reliable source of yearlong incomes for farming communities, are amongst the biggest contributors to these losses. Nearly 450000 metric tonnes of tomatoes are produced in Bangladesh and the total  market value of fresh and processed tomatoes is estimated to be around $260 Million annually, nearly one third of these tomatoes are not consumed due to wastage across the value chain.

Lack of access to better post harvest cold storage infrastructure at farm gate  is one of the major reasons these losses. By providing affordable access to tomato farmers in just 4 major tomato growing districts of Bangladesh will impact the livelihood of nearly 70000 farmers, when scaled across the country this intervention is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of small & marginal farmers.

Who are you serving?

We shall serve the small and marginal farmers of Bangladesh with each having less than 0.5-1 hectares of land holdings. On the basis of several academic studies, research reports, and field  surveys carried out by  by our partner team in Bangladesh, it is  gleaned that nearly 25% of Bangladesh's fresh farm produce is accounted by Tomatoes.

A preliminary needs assessment revealed that the two factors that prevent the farming communities minimize post harvest losses are: affordable access to energy  and lack of post harvest infrastructure near farm gate. As energy charges contribute  to nearly 30-40% of cold storage operating costs , our business model addresses these two pain points while providing multiple gains in form of better incomes, better market linkages that ensure fair and remunerative market prices 

What is your solution?

Coolcrop's Solar powered distributed cold storage systems  t to be integrated with SOLshare’s micro energy grids. This will allow the farmers to store the tomatoes for longer and sell at an optimum price stabilizing the local market in the long run.

SOLshare’s created the world’s first solar peer-to-peer microgrid assuring users a secure and constant source of energy supply, independent from the national grid’s outreach and quality. Moreover, through its participative electricity sharing platform, SOLshare’s end-users have the ability to become prosumers or producers, and hence potentially generate dual  incomes, through the trading of the excess electricity produced by their individual energy systems, and also selling the farm produce at better market rates.

The increased energy access unlocks the potential for productive use, allowing farmer-users an opportunity to use productive energy use appliances such as solar powered cold storages

Select only the most relevant.

  • Support economic development and food security in rural Bangladesh through sustainable farming and agricultural methods

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Bangalore, Karnataka, India

In which sector would you categorize your solution?

  • Energy & Natural Resources

Our solution's stage of development:

Growth
More about your solution

Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Our innovative business model approach addresses both the technology as well as the systemic challenges in the Bangladesh market . 

Coolcrop's distributed cold storage  solution shall interface with Solshare's machine-to-machine (M2M) enabled integrated  bi-directional smart technology platform to enable the peer-to-peer (P2P) energy services sharing network. It is the precursor of the ‘swarm’ approach for sustainable rural electrification. 

The greatest difficulty for small hold farmers in remote rural areas is lack of access to  any cold storage facilities. This forces these farmers to sell off harvested crop at lower than market prices as market prices can vary greatly on a day to day basis. Due to this, farmers end up losing their entire crop or are forced to sell at very low prices to avoid complete losses. Provision of cold storage in a cooling as a service business model would greatly reduce this problem and over 1-2 years stabilize market prices for tomatoes. 

By means of strategic  partnership with local micro finance institutes, development agencies, we shall establish  better market linkages for the farmers using the collective experience within these communities and links throughout the market. A microfinance partner will help provide the farmers with training in financial literacy and collective bargaining in order to for all farmers within the area to get better prices and stabilize the local product market. This approach will not only minimize food loss and waste across the system by reducing supply chain inefficiencies, but also help in increasing awareness of producers and consumers 

Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?

Solar energy dominates the renewable energy sector in several forms: photovoltaic (PV), solar home systems (SHS), nanogrids and microgrids. Bangladesh currently has over five million SHS making up 80% of global off-grid energy solutions. Globally, Bangladesh is considered the market leader of standalone PV systems. The country boasts 300 clear sunny days a year, with average solar energy incident of about 4-6.5 kWh/m2/day, averaging 10.5 hours of sunlight per day, of which 4-4.5 are peak sunlight hours. However, solar home systems remain prohibitively expensive for a large portion of people in Bangladesh, where the national grid will most likely never reach. 

The government provides a certain level of funding, including for solar home systems of which 5 million are already installed across the country. The government has plans to increase this is 6 million alongside its ongoing solar mini-grid installations (by 2021 these installations will generate around 220 MW of electricity), but this is not sufficient to cover the number of people living in these areas. Private financing options are scarce, and the cost is in part high due to lack of critical data for project development in rural areas.

 Our integrated  technology intervention provides a solution which responds to the energy trilemma and benefits users through the opportunity to earn more, increases energy efficiency and allows the productive energy use. This could be the critical and necessary steps for resolving Bangladesh’s energy access problem eventually leading to grid integration and further strengthened by partnerships with local stakeholders

Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.

  • Rural Residents
  • Very Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • India

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal

How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?

1. The current number of people we are serving : 500 rural families

2. The number we shall be serving in one year: 2000 rural families

3. The number you’ll be serving in five year : 12000 rural families

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

The project proposes three phases over three to five years of the project. The first phase will focus on implementation of Coolcrop cold storage facilities with SOLshare’s grids for small hold tomato farming communities in Gaibandha district of Bangladesh. We shall work with partners (subcontracted) with field expertise in the given districts to help provide energy access to the rural communities ultimately reaching 3000 beneficiaries(12000 families) over three years.

The first year of the project will be the main implementing phase which will include the following key activities: Survey and site selection for solar p2p microgrids with cold storage for small hold farming communities;Market price assessment using the Cool Crop app;Implementation of the grids;Training for small hold farmers on cold storage and its benefits for tomato sales;Impact assessment at the end of year one.

The second phase of the project aims to further enhance market linkages for small hold tomato farmers. A large focus in phase 2 will be gender inclusion as the agricultural work is largely dominated by women in both harvesting and processing. We shall  provide community training through identified  partner in order to improve market linkages. Fiscal literacy and collective bargaining training will also be provided to the community through partners. 

Phase three of the project will focus on revenue generation and market price stabilization. The third phase will work with the communities through focus group discussions and community level meetings to better understand the ways in which revenue generation for the community can further be enhanced. 

What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?

We believe the following barriers currently exist and are likely to continue in some form going forward

Financial: Lack of access to project finance/patient capital to build business & investment case for small holder livelihood improvement projects. Lack of scalable  low-cost working capital finance instruments for small & marginal farmers like warehouse receipts etc may affect day to day operations of our integrated technology day to day operations

Technical: Poor extension services, program of agronomy practices may affect product quality which cannot be addressed by our technology alone

Cultural: Farming communities may want to continue with existing practice of harvest and sell, instead of holding the produce for some time for better price realization. The prospect of making immediate money by short selling, distress sale under pressure from local traders and value chain intermediaries 

How are you planning to overcome these barriers?

We shall enter into collaborative partnerships with local development sector , micro finance organizations , carry out a detailed mapping exercise to mitigate the project risks, design appropriate tools for participatory systems of cooperation,  multi stake holder analysis and management.

Select one.

  • I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh

If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?

We have installed nearly 12 of our distributed cold storage systems across multiple geographies and agro climatic zones in India in  diverse& flexible cooling as a service business models, each tailor made to regional crop and energy system mix. In the next 1 month we shall deploy two more systems in West Bengal, the Indian state neighboring Bangladesh. 

Our experience in two states in India, viz Bihar & West Bengal, that almost mirror Bangladesh farming system from the landholding pattern and farming practices standpoint makes us believe that the cooling as a business model could be scaled across Bangladesh, targeting a specific horticulture produce to begin with, and from the experience gained,  diversifying the installation across multiple crop & farm holding classes. 

Additionally we shall leverage SOLshare on ground experience in Bangladesh in building solar p2p micro-grids installed across the country serving over 3000 beneficiaries.

Using our combined strengths and collective experiences, we shall build distributed grids that support cold storages serving small hold tomato farmers. Every year thousands of tons of tomatoes are disposed of due to the lack of storage while others are forced to sell far below market price in order to reduce crop waste and minimize losses. Access to cold storage in these remote off-grid areas will allow small hold farmers to store their tomatoes and sell them at the optimum price.


About your team

Select an option below:

For-profit

How many people work on your solution team?

Coolcrop has currently 3 full time employees and 1 part time employee in an advisory role. In addition we hire region/geography  specific electrical, civil and mechanical subcontractors ranging from5-6 members based on project complexity.

For the Bangladesh foray we shall partner with Solshare to leverage their local work force and technology teams’ experience. Solshare project team shall consist of 6-7 full time employees ,supported by 3-5 subcontractor partners from the development and microfinance sectors

For how many years have you been working on your solution?

Coolcrop has been working on the distributed cold storage solutions for nearly 2 years now, while Solshare has been in business for more than 4 years. Collectively we have several decades of experience in executing complex projects involving multiple technology and system integration scope of work.

Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?

Our team has the right blend of project, technology , market development , and execution skill sets and expertise 

Coolcrop team shall include

  • Niraj Marathe: MS from TU Berlin, Germany. 5 years’ experience in handling renewable energy projects in India and Europe.
  • Dr. Kendall Nowocin: PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT, US. Has 3 years of experience in power grid and solar micro-grid design in US and India.
  • Dr. George Chen: PhD in Computer Science from MIT. Works as a faculty for Carnegie Mellon University, US. Develops systems for predictive analytics through machine learning.
  • Srinivas K Marella: Graduate of GE Energy’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Programme , Six Sigma Green Belt, has  diverse  experience in Application Engineering, Business Development, Sales, and Strategic Marketing 

 Solshare team shall include

  •  Dr Sebastian Groh; Qualification: Ph.D.  Dr. Groh is a 2013 Stanford Ignite Fellow from Stanford Graduate School of Business (USA) and holds a PhD from Aalborg University (Denmark) and the Postgraduate School Microenergy Systems at the Technische Universität Berlin 
  •  Mr Hannes Kirchhoff; Role: CTO (Chief Technical Officer); Qualification: Ph.D (in progress). Hannes is an energy and process engineer by background and holds a master’s degree in renewable energy systems engineering and pursues a PhD on DC microgrids. 
  • Ms.Salma Islam; Qualifications: MSc Development Studies, SOAS .Salma has spent the last 15 years working in various development sector organizations such as Oxfam GB in both Dhaka and London. She brings with her a wealth of development sector experience and a true passion for improving rural livelihoods. 

With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?

Coolcrop is partnering  with several national and international organizations, NGOs, Corporate Foundations and Technology Institutes viz  MIT, IIT, Villgro, Tata Trusts, PWC, BASIX, SFAC, Samunnati, BAIF, Unilver Foundation etc.

We have had excellent relationships with our partners in India and have regular review meetings, business match making summits and forums, collaborative solution development discussions etc. We also get business mentorship support from time to time from some of these organizations

Similarly Solshare has worked with  international donors and corporations ranging from UN DESA, Microsoft,Telefonica Alpha Energy, KfW-DEG, TEPCO, innogy innovation hub, MIT & Harvard, GIZ Endev, GIZ India/ CYGNI

Your business model & funding

What is your business model?

For our current projects in India and our Bangladesh foray we adopt a combining operational model, a mix of Fee for Service, Organizational Support and Market Linkage business models to target our key Beneficiary Segments , small and marginal farmers and farming communities , via managed access to cold chain infrastructure , so as to increase the competitiveness of rural subsistence farmers, turning them into agri-business clusters.

What is your path to financial sustainability?

We shall use a Cooling as Service and  Pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) systems , to allow for setting up payment methods for decentralised energy service sales that imitate pre-paid mobile phone solutions. The end-customer must “top up” his energy account before consuming the services provided by solar energy. This approach enables cold store +SHS/ mini-grid-operators to manage the payment behaviour in an automated way and to optimize the money collection process. The approach also avoids losses due to failure of payment

Partnership potential

Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?

In addition to the funding for our market foray in Bangladesh , we look forward to availing strategic and operational support from a Tiger IT Foundation network of seasoned professionals to help us establish the right networks and forge the right partnerships for rolling out our innovative ,integrated energy services delivery model

What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?

  • Business Model
  • Funding and revenue model
  • Legal
  • Monitoring and evaluation

With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?

We would like to partner with organizations that have a Bangladesh/South Asia focus. Some organizations in our wish list include

  • YUNUS SOCIAL BUSINESS
  • Grameen Foundation
  • Multiple regional Micro Finance Institutions
  • Multilateral Development & Climate Finance Institutes
  • Corporate Foundations 
  • Legal Service Providers to establish a Benefit Corporation for South Asia Markets

Solution Team

 
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