In conversation with Mr. Jiten Ghelani, CEO, Promethean Power Systems

“In addition, leading players and new entrants in the food industry have created new standards for premium quality products and innovative business models that further increase consumer expectations for safe, premium and convenient food products”

Can you talk us through the products you serve – to assist the demand of cold chain projects and so on? 

Promethean Power Systems designs and manufactures energy storage systems that are redefining the cold chain in developing countries. Its patented thermal energy storage technology enables energy-efficient refrigeration of fresh food items as they make their way from smallholder farmers in rural villages to processing plants and customers in distant cities. Promethean’s energy storage device uses proprietary phase-change materials to store large amounts of thermal energy. This thermal battery is designed to release energy at fast rates to cool food products quickly thereby preserving their freshness. 

Its battery coupled with a rapid milk chiller for cooling raw milk at village collection centers is a disruptive technology to conventional milk chillers and serves a large market—small village collection centers—where traditional chillers are uneconomical.  Promethean works with India’s largest dairies and food companies to implement its cold chain technology in their supply chains to better preserve perishable foods and reduce costs.  Our systems are designed for preventing food loss in developing countries, where nearly 40% of fresh agricultural produce is wasted because of the lack of cold-chain infrastructure from farm to market. India alone estimates losses of $10 billion worth of perishable foods annually.  Our product range includes a variety of systems to enable end-to-end cold chain for dairy and food products. 

Our industry leading products include milk chilling solutions that can rapidly cool milk without a diesel generator at village collection centers, mini and micro cold storage systems for cooling at farm gate and urban distribution points, and refrigerated trucks that do not require diesel for cooling and eliminate on board compressor.  Our milk chilling solutions for rural villages in weak grid and off grid areas include Rapid Milk Chillers (500-1000L capacity), TurboCool Bulk Milk Coolers (500-2000L capacity), Instant Milk Chillers (1000-3000L capacity).  Our mini and micro cold storage systems (including solar cold storages) are utilized at farm-gate for pre-cooling and for efficient food distribution in urban areas where diesel generators are typically too expensive, noisy or polluting to operate.  Our latest product line is energy-efficient reefer trucks and vans that eliminate dependency on diesel engine for cooling the refrigerated container and do not require a compressor on board. 

Can you tell us more about your latest innovation for refrigerated transport? 

Our new award-winning energy-efficient refrigerated trucks do not utilize diesel for cooling and eliminate the need for on board compressor.  Our reefer vans and trucks are designed for intra-city/last-mile or inter-city food distribution and were recently awarded by RefCold India and Emerson in innovative cold chain category for reefer vehicle using thermal storage system for cooling.  The advantages of Promethean Power’s reefer trucks include up to 50% reduction in operating cost compared to conventional reefers, improved temperature control even during multiple door openings, less wear and tear on vehicle engine by not using engine for cooling, less maintenance by eliminating on-board compressor, and retro-fittable solutions for any existing vehicle. 

We launched our latest reefer in the sub 1 tonne category for urban distribution at the India Cold Chain Show in Mumbai in December 2019 to great response and are excited to deploy these new reefers with top food companies in the coming months.  We have also launched reefers in models such as Mahindra Bolero, Ashok Leyland Dost and Tata 407 and will continue to expand our product line.  Our reefers, with complete real-time remote monitoring to ensure proper temperature control and system performance, are currently used for distribution for variety of applications including milk, yogurt and bakery/cakes.

We charge our systems at the food plant or distribution point and reliably maintain product temperature throughout the delivery route without any diesel, which can reduce diesel consumption by 10-12 liters per day (equivalent of 700 rupees per day) as compared to conventional reefer trucks.  We also offer our systems on rental basis (cold chain as a service) with no upfront costs to the customer or can provide lease financing options. 

There is significant demand for reefer trucks with lower operating costs and over time we expect to see electric vehicle adoption for food distribution in India and many other markets.  One major barrier to EV adoption for refrigerated trucks is the additional power required for the cooling load.  As our refrigerated trucks do not require diesel or engine power, they are well suited for future adoption into EV reefer trucks.

Can you tell us your major clients and the work you do for them?

Promethean has installed more than 1,200 rapid cooling milk chillers, mini cold rooms and refrigerated trucks for leading dairy and food processing companies such Hatsun Agro, Amul, ITC Limited, Parag Milk Foods, Akshayakalpa, Fonterra, Delightful Gourmet, Lactalis and Heritage Foods.  In terms of milk chilling solutions, more than 60,000 dairy farmers across India supply milk to collection centers run using Promethean’s thermal battery.  Our thermal battery eliminates dependence on diesel for cooling and enables access to reliable refrigeration for smallholder dairy farmers, along with access to predictable and transparent markets, leading to increase in farmer incomes. 

Our cold storage systems are utilized to pre-cool fruits and vegetables at the farm gate to preserve freshness and prevent shrinkage and spoilage, and to provide backup power and reduce operating costs for cold storage systems for intra-city distribution and last-mile delivery.  Lastly, our energy efficient refrigerated trucks are utilized for inter-city milk product delivery from processing plants to distribution centres, and for intra-city milk and food product delivery from distribution centres to retail outlets and home. 

What about farm produce chilling without Diesel Generator Back up? 

Our micro and mini cold storage systems are designed for farm produce chilling without diesel generator backup.  Our cold storage systems can be powered by solar energy or 4-5 hours of grid power, enabling farmgate chilling without diesel generator backup. Promethean’s cold storage systems are the most economical way to chill, store, and transport fresh fruits, vegetables and perishables.  Chilling the fresh produce immediately is the most optimal solution to India’s cold storage challenge.  Our cooling system can chill farm produce most efficiently at lowest overall cost in weak-grid and off-grid areas.

Do you publish any blog, report or case-studies on cold chain food and dairy distribution for the industry users? 

Our blog, reports and case studies on cold chain for food and dairy distribution can be found on our website. We can also provide product demonstrations and trials that will give first-hand experience to customers.

Could you please share your views on Cold Chain Sector for our magazine readers?

We are seeing a significant increase in cold chain interest across dairy and food sector.  While cold chain adoption has been expected to grow rapidly in India for several years, it hasn’t expanded as fast as most had expected.  In addition, many dairy and food products in India have struggled to meet food safety standards due to lack of proper cold chain, and the overall dairy and food industry would benefit greatly if it can consistently meet international standards for quality, unlocking more growth opportunities for local and export markets. 

However, as consumer demand for safer and higher quality food products in India continues to increase and organized retail and food processing industry growth continues at the current pace, we expect to see cold chain penetration increase significantly in the next few years. In addition, leading players and new entrants in the food industry have created new standards for premium quality products and innovative business models that further increase consumer expectations for safe, premium and convenient food products.  These trends require redefining of cold chain from farm to fork to meet these demands.  If end to end cold chain is to be truly adopted, new cooling solutions are required that decrease costs and enable proper refrigeration across the food supply chain. 

Energy and related operating costs are one of the most significant costs and barriers to cold chain adoption.  We are excited to have the opportunity to work with leading dairy and food companies to accelerate adoption of decentralized energy-efficient cold chain solutions from first mile to last mile across India and emerging markets and expand our offerings to include rentals and cooling as a service. As demand for safe, high-quality and convenient food products increase, our innovative cooling solutions will ensure quality, reduce food loss and help redefine cold chain from farm to fork.

 

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