Innovation for Sustainability: A Milk Refrigeration System Lowers Fresh Food Waste in India

Innovation for Sustainability: A Milk Refrigeration System Lowers Fresh Food Waste in India

Innovative solutions for specific problems can revolutionize an entire industry or have a major impact in terms of sustainability. This is the case of the refrigeration system devised by a small start-up company, Promethean Power Systems, for Indian milk producers. In this post, we will discuss this interesting case of innovation in the dairy industry.

India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk with 102 million gallons produced annually by rural Indian farmers. However, in this marketplace, problems such as the hot climate, the large distances and dispersion of milk producers, and especially the lack of access to electricity, hinder access to quality milk for consumers and cause the waste of large amounts of fresh food and make it difficult for the dairy industry to allow a safe supply chain.

In the two videos below, Sorin Grama and Sam White, co-founders of Promethean Power Systems, discuss the particularities of the Indian Dairy industry and market and how they designed a system for raw milk supply networks operating in rural areas.  With the support of the Planet NI program, they started to work on the issue in 2007 and they ended up building a thermal battery-powered refrigeration system to cool and store raw milk solving  the problem of the huge amount of fresh product becoming spoiled because of the high temperatures.



The challenge

  • Around 400 million Indians live without access to reliable power while 10 billion of dollars in perishable food are lost every year because of the lack of refrigeration along the supply chain.
  • Out of the 300,000 milk villages producing milk in India, only 120,000 are able to produce milk for the organized industry because they cannot achieve the standards of quality and safety.
  • Dairy processors cannot collect the milk from more than half of the producers because they must collect and transport the product quickly since bacteria spoils it in 4 hours if it is not refrigerated.
  • Milk transportation costs are very expensive in India because producers have to collect the milk from millions of individual farmers who produce between five and ten liters of milk which must be quickly transported twice a day to prevent the milk from spoiling.
  • Milk has a poor quality in the country where it is more consumed and produced and it contains dangerous levels of bacteria, as explained in the videos. “Everyone buying milk in India knows they have to build it”, explains Sam White, who emphasizes the loss of vitamins and nutrients involved.


The solution

The Promethean Power Systems’ solution allows farmers to refresh milk for the first time without a generator and through a thermal battery system, ready to plug it in and go. It uses the two hours of electricity that farmers are able to get in those villages to charge the battery so when the power goes out it keeps running. Additionally, it has a remote control system using a text message protocol that allows collect production data.

This system can have a lot of social impact in rural Indian communities, as well as in final consumers and the dairy industry since the whole ecosystem rises. Here are some of the points solved:

  • It enables dairy processors to collect milk from the rural producers that were outside the supply chain and as a result produce more while saving costs since milk can wait longer to be collected.
  • Producers earn three times the income because of the increasing quality of their products.
  • India’s growing middle class, demanding better quality products, can gain access to healthier milk.
  • The system can slow down the fresh food waste in India.

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