As everyone knows, a heck of a lot of fruits and vegetables go waste every year because they are not stored. Deepak Rajmohan realized that it was not because the farmers could not find a cold storage facility in their neighborhood.
“We met farmers who said that within a distance of 15-minute drive there were two cold storage facilities, lying shut for two years,” the founder-CEO of the Chennai-based start-up, GreenPod Labs, told businessline.
The problem was not one of access, but affordability, he said.
Rajmohan has always been interested in food—he has a Masters in Food Science and has worked for food companies in the US. Wastage of food was a national issue, he realized. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work. The result is a product that resembles silica gel sachets that can be integrated into crate or cardboard packaging.
How does it work?
Like humans, plants also have immune systems, says Rajmohan. The system gets activated when an adversity – a heatwave or a pest – comes. Further, the system is still alive after the fruits and vegetables are harvested. GreenPod Lab’s technology is ‘plant extracts’, specific to each product, that activates the innate defense mechanism.
The start-up, which has been in business since May 2020, gets the products contract-manufactured by food companies. (Rajmohan regrets his inability to name them.)
The companies get ingredients from GreenPod Labs, which are “100 per cent black-boxed” so that the IP is not leaked out, and they produce the sachets. GreenPod Labs also has just piloted its own manufacturing plant in the Ambattur industrial estate in Chennai, but most of the production is outsourced.
Today, the company produces enough packing material to preserve 500 tons of fruits a day and intends to scale it up to 2,000 tpd in a few months.
Rajmohan says the GreenPod Lab’s products are impactful. Since the fruits and vegetables packed with the start-up’s products can preserve well for 10-12 days, traders are able to transport them to distant markets — something they couldn’t do earlier.
He gave the instance of a mango trader in Tamil Nadu who is now able to send his products to Delhi. Likewise, some are selling mangoes and grapes to Malaysia and Singapore, he said. Asked for their names, Rajmohan said they were small traders.
Right now, GreenPod Labs has products for mangoes, grapes, citrus fruits and avocados in the market, but R&D is happening for 12 more.
Rajmohan did not wish to reveal sales numbers but said the start-up has a team of 25, and 150 customers. GreenPod raised ₹4 crore last year, he said. Asked about scaling up, he said he did not forsee a problem because it is just a question of outsourcing more.