With climate-smart deeptech solutions, Ecozen has revolutionised the irrigation and cold chain industries in India and abroad. Devendra Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO, Ecozen Solutions talks to Mohd Mustaquim about transforming agricultural practices with AI and IoT-enabled green solutions…
What difference Ecozen is making in the agriculture sector and how does it impact the lives of farmers?
Ecozen believes technology and innovation have the power to bring change and we look to harness this power to build solutions that deliver impact to our customers, our people and the planet. Our foray into agriculture was a result of our analysis of the gap in storage solutions to which farmers have access. We saw that only 34.3 per cent of arable land was irrigated in India. High operational cost and lack or inadequate availability of power restricted the use of traditional irrigation pumps and hence impacted their farm yield. Additionally, poor post-harvest management and lack of access to a cold chain were hampering the earnings of farmers drastically as they wasted 40 per cent of their produce on average even before it went to the market.
Our products, Ecotron and Ecofrost were developed to address these issues. With Ecozen’s expertise in climate-smart solutions, we reduced dependence on non-renewable sources of energy. Our path-breaking deeptech innovations in motor controls, IoT (Internet of Things) and thermal energy storage have helped farmers efficiently increase farm yields and navigate the supply chain of fresh farm produce, thereby improving their earnings directly. Over the last 12 years, Ecozen has impacted the lives of more than 100,000 farmers across 20 states in India and 10 countries across the globe.
What major solutions do you offer to the farming sector and in which geographical areas are you operating?
Applying climate-smart deeptech solutions, Ecozen’s solutions have revolutionised the irrigation and cold chain industries with Ecotron – Smart AI and IoT-enabled solar pumping solution and Ecofrost – Smart AI and IoT-enabled solar-powered cold room.
Our smart solar pump controllers, Ecotron, come equipped with embedded AI (artificial intelligence), advanced motor controls and superior connectivity. This technology suite has enabled Ecotron’s rapid growth, with over 70,000 units installed across India, irrigating over three lakh acres of land and is India’s leading solar pumping solution with a 20 per cent market share. Enhanced connectivity, predictive analytics modules and data science frameworks enable farmers, system integrators and us to remotely monitor, manage and update our Ecotrons.
While Ecotrons helped increase farm yield and income potential through stable and efficient irrigation, Ecofrost helps maximise farm profitability by increasing shelf-life, reducing waste and expanding market access. Using our proprietary AI, motor controls and thermal energy storage solutions, it builds on our in-house PHM expertise and automatically sets and maintains produce specific temperature and humidity for pre-cooling and storage applications. This enables our customers to sell when the price is right and where market conditions are favourable. All Ecofrost units are also equipped with our thermal energy storage, AI and motor control solutions. With over 450 units deployed globally. Both our products are powered by solar energy and have to date generated over 1Bn kWh of clean energy.
Powered by our internally developed EcozenAI solution, we have equipped our solutions with intelligent sensing technology, smart control and communication abilities. It conducts predictive diagnostics, preventive maintenance and device management remotely using AI, IoT and data science modules.
Ecozen has a wide footprint across India with a presence in 20 states across India and 10 countries globally. Some of the key states where we are prominently present are Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
What is the concept of solar cold rooms which you are calling a ‘game changer’ for the future?
The accelerating pace of climate change, combined with global population and income growth, threatens food security everywhere. Safeguarding the farm produce for a longer shelf-life has become vital to reduce losses to farmers and make farm produce available to diversified regions. We observed that while farmers’ yield was increasing, 40 per cent of produced (about USD 7.3 Bn globally) was wasted even before it reached the market. This was due to poor post-harvest management and lack of access to a cold chain (only 4 per cent of produce that needs it uses the cold chain in India). AI-enabled next-gen, decentralised solar cold storage solutions are the need of the hour which help reduce wastage using clean energy and hence a ‘game changer’ for the future.
How can this concept of solar cold rooms make a difference in rural India?
Many rural areas are not directly connected with the power supply or advanced facilities to store the agri-produces. To strengthen the farming community in such regions, the solar cold storage facilities make a difference. Solar cold storage systems enable the farmers to increase shelf-life and store their produce for longer.
In rural areas, farmers face many challenges – lack of storage facilities and no investment support. In order to empower the rural farming communities, there is a need for products that are affordable, easy to use, easily transportable and yield better results. Some of the key benefits to farmers are reducing expenses, eco-friendly, low maintenance, longer-wider selling, and farmer-centric buying models.
What green agricultural practices are you offering to the farming community? Kindly shed light on it.
As a leading OEM player with a heavy and consistent focus on R&D to come up with the best technological innovation and solution, Ecozen would continue to diversify and expand climate-smart deeptech across sectors. Our solutions have driven a major positive impact on the agri value chain, livelihoods of farmers and the environment altogether. Being a technology company, our approach towards contributing to the farming community is reducing their dependence on non-renewable resources and providing them with smart climate-smart solutions for farming that help increase their income.
Kindly elaborate on the ways to make agri logistics greener.
Electricity availability is lopsided across states in India, especially the underdeveloped areas. Farmers face challenges in storing perishables like vegetables, fruits and flowers and have to push out their produce at the earliest possible as they lack storage facilities that are optimum for the shelf-life of these products. The cold storage solutions available for farmers consume enormous amounts of electricity which in turn increased the operating costs for farmers. Solar cold storage solutions like Ecofrost help farmers, reduce waste, increase shelf life, reach farther markets and earn more. Agri logistics equipped with IoT-enabled devices, advanced AI algorithms and predictive analytics modules ensure smooth operation of the units and lesser downtime. IoT and virtual representation models of a particular fresh produce (digital twins) as emerging technologies that can help monitor and control the uncharted quality evolution during its post-harvest life. Upgraded agri-logistics can help diagnose and take measures against potential problems affecting the quality of fresh produce in the supply chains. Cold Storage solutions can be used to precool produce, an essential PHM method that increases produce shelf-life up to 7-30 days. Once the produce is pre-cooled it can be stored in Ecofrost at the optimum temperature and RH levels. They also provide plausible future pathways to further develop these emerging technologies and help in the significant reduction of food losses in the supply chain of fresh produce.
What channels do you opt for promoting your solutions amongst your target customer group?
Our primary target customer group are farmers hence we work with and reach out to multiple stakeholders like FPOs, agricultural foundations and Government agencies who help farmers procure agricultural equipment. This helps us to be in touch with all the stakeholders who can influence the purchasing decisions of farmers.
We also have strong relationships with state governments and Central agencies who have aided our mission to provide clean-tech solutions for farming practices.
How are technological disruptions, particularly the modern cutting-edge technologies, going to transform the agriculture sector in the future?
With the increasing digitalisation of India, today technology can address most of the challenges that farmers face — from soil issues, climate, irrigation, to supply chain gaps. Farmers can now use something as simple as their smartphones to receive timely updates, and relevant information and monitor their crops. More farmers are beginning to understand how leveraging solutions that use the latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Cloud offers them greater climate resilience, higher crop yield, and better price control.
What new offerings is Ecozen going to bring in the future?
Through the development and evolution of our products, we grew our expertise in the technologies that were used to build them. With our advancements in predictive analytics, motor controls, energy storage, AI and IoT modules and food-tech, we have evolved into a technology company. The application of these technology solutions is industry-agnostic. We currently are working on developing technology solutions for customers in the financial services and asset management industries as well as the application of our IoT modules to electric vehicles and their allied industries.
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