Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

Solar Cold Storage – a new horizon for farmers

Posted in Bangladesh, Business, Energy and power, Interviews, Renewable energy, Technology by Sherpa Hossainy on September 14, 2011

Published in The Independent on 9 September 2011

Read the article on Independent website
Digital print version

Farmers in Bangladesh might finally get free from the clutches of hoarders and middlemen, thanks to a novel green technology — solar cold storage.

The impoverished farmers are most often denied fair prices during harvesting season as they are forced to sell off their produce to unscrupulous middlemen, who stockpile and sell those at much higher prices later.

Bangladesh Clean Technology Company Ltd (BCTCL) is going to introduce new solar-based micro cold storages in Bangladesh at affordable prices in a bid to give the farmers a chance to store their produce and save themselves from the menacing grip of hoarders.

“The opportunists take advantage of farmers’ inability to store their produce. So they count big losses and sell their produce at a much lower price to the cold storage owners,” said Iqbal Sufi, managing director of BCTCL.

The hoarders usually store the produce for a few months and sell it later at four to five times higher prices. The farmers and customers get extorted and exploited in the process, Sufi added.

“Instead of the traditional cold storages that are used to store potatoes, we are going to introduce micro cold storages. Such cold storages can be used to store any kinds of vegetable, fruit and other agro-products,” said Sufi.

A traditional 1,000-tonne cold storage costs about Tk 3.5 crore ($473,970) and consumes a large amount of electricity. They are rarely used to store any other agro-products except for potatoes in Bangladesh.

Micro cold storages are usually 100-500 tonnes in size and run solely by solar power. It has a backup generator, which is only used initially to achieve the standard cooling temperature.

A 100-tonne capacity micro cold storage costs around Tk 35 lakh ($47,400) and there is little or no electricity cost incurred.

Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL) has expressed interest to finance the project with assistance from the World Bank’s renewable energy development funds. BCTCL will submit the project proposal to IDCOL within a week and Sufi expects to start the project one or two months after the official paperwork is done.

The company is planning to introduce four 500-tonne capacity cold storages in Rangpur, Jessore, Munshiganj and Savar in the first phase and also aims to introduce those all over Bangladesh, even in Hatia island where it can be used to store dried fishes.

The World Bank will provide 50 per cent subsidy to the poor farmers who will buy the micro cold storages directly. Thirty per cent of the money will be given as loan at six per cent interest rates, which has to be paid back within six years. The rest 20 per cent, which is around Tk 3-4 lakh, has to be paid at the beginning.

Sufi said there are many farmers who can afford to pay the first down payment. “There are plenty of people who live abroad and upon coming back to Bangladesh invest their hard-earned money in risky ventures without thinking it through.

“They can invest their money to buy this cold storage and store their produces. Also, they can rent out space in such solar-run storage to the farmers who want to store their produces,” he said.

The micro solar cold storages can be used all year round unlike the traditional ones, which are only operational 8-9 months and used as one-time solution.

Sufi said: “If someone keeps a sack of potato for a whole season he can get Tk 300 as rent; whereas using micro solar cold storage you can store dry chillies, which are becoming increasingly popular as a all-year-round produce, and get Tk 500.”

The power consumption to store dry chillies is almost one third of potato and it is more profitable to store them than potato, he added. In these multi-purpose cold storages farmers can also opt for storing imported vegetables and hybrid seeds, and they can store four different types of produce at the same time.

“We have done the practical research and feasibility study and it is obviously much more profitable than the traditional potato cold storages,” Sufi said. A farmer can get back his investments within three to four years, he pointed out.

Unlike typical cold storages, which sprang up all around Bangladesh, solar cold storages are significantly energy-efficient and have modern designs.

“The existing structures of the cold storages are at least a hundred years old. You will not see this technology anywhere in the world nowadays,” said the BCTCL boss.

The ammonia-based traditional cold storages are only suitable for potatoes only, as other produces are affected by the leaked ammonia inside the storage.

Sufi said there is a need to get out of the trend of building potato cold storages, and put attention towards other agro-products such as tomato and chilli.

“The climate of this country makes vegetables and other produces quickly perishable. You either have to eat them or sell them at low prices within two days,” he said.

Sufi believes now it is the time to build the infrastructure to save the farmers and ensure fair prices for their products.

“The farmers won’t be able to hold on to their produces if they don’t have storages of their own. We are introducing the technology keeping this in mind,” he said.

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14 Responses

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  1. Brendan W. said, on September 15, 2011 at 3:07 am

    l really liked the tech and the coverage you gave it. The article would have been stronger still if the lede were to tone down the editorializing. I think the use of ‘ominous’ was awkward for such an supposedly everyday problem. Also, if the farmers get some of the profit that normally went to middlemen, perhaps consumers will get some of it too. A competitive market tends to share its benefits in their favour, and this make it of interest to more readers; for all are consumers of potatoes and chillies. Anyway, keep up the good work.

  2. Sherpa Hossainy said, on September 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Hey Mentor, thank you so much for your advices and inspiration. I’ll try to do better next time. But, for now I’m taking the awkward “ominous” out 🙂

  3. Ahad said, on November 12, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Solar Based Cold Storage is not sustainable & I doubt the feasibility analysis of the entrepreneur. Application of technology is not always mean the right choice. There are other technologies which can better serve the purpose.

    • Sherpa Hossainy said, on November 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

      Hi

      Thank you so much for your valuable comment. I really appreciate it.

      It would be really great to know why you think solar based cold storage is not sustainable and what you think the other alternatives could be or what could be the probable modification of the existing technology or even some suggestions on different application.

      Hoping to get your knowledgeable insight.

      Sherpa

      • Ahad said, on November 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm

        In My Opinion:

        Up front cost of Solar PV installation is high and availability of solar power is around 5/7 hours in a day on the other hand BIO-gas is available 24/7 hours and relatively cheap comparing solar power energy.

        In any power generation process there is some waste heat and it ranges from 40-60% of the total capacity. So Micro-CHP Based technology is a good options for such Mini Cold storage where Waste heat would be used to run Cold Storage by Absorption chilling process and Pure Clean electricity would be sold to local market.

        Its A multichannel revenue generation option where nothing would be wasted moreover possible to earn carbon credit.

        I hope this brief info is understandable and I would request the entrepreneur to think other options before staring this luxurious project for Bangladesh.

  4. Rana said, on March 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Um sure it is a great idea to implement solar panner cold storege. The ultimate power is going to be solar near future, so great. As a farmer i would like to established one of that. Please help me. Thank u.

    • Sherpa Hossainy said, on March 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks so much for your valuable comment. You are absolutely right. Solar energy is going to be the future. Please let me know how I can be of help? Drop me an email here: sherpa.hossainy[at]gmail.com. Best, Sherpa.

      • Alim said, on May 31, 2013 at 3:38 am

        Hi Sherpa,

        Please let me know how can you assist my company- A Canada based renewable energy service solution provider in Bangladesh?

        Thanks

        Alim

  5. Pharr Bridge said, on May 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    It’s pathetic that farmers are neglected. But it is a happy matter that BCTCL is helping them.
    Thanks.

  6. abu alamgir said, on April 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

    hi i am very keen to establish this project in my area nilphamari .so pls help and mail me alamgir_dhaka@yahoo.com

  7. Mahabub Alam said, on October 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Its a great idea for solar cold stororage business. I establish this project please help me and mail me early mahabub_nokib@yahoo.com

  8. Anwar Hussain said, on February 18, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Hello….

    I would be grateful if you could provide me with the details of how can I set up the solar system cold storage.

  9. Zillur Rahman said, on August 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Hi
    Could to pls give us the idea of cost for a 5,000 tons capacity solar based coldstorage in Bangladesh ?

    Regards
    Zillur Rahman
    E mail : zillur.rhman@gmail.com

  10. mamun said, on January 9, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Pls help to advise your cell no. My cell no is 01713049269. we want get advise this matter fm you.


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