Create new markets
To date, Covestro has provided the materials for over 1,200 small solar dryers, over 200 parabolic solar dryers and more than 80 solar-powered refrigerators in India. The latter are also insulated with rigid polyurethane foam. In the Indian region of Krishnagiri, where Mallappan lives, Covestro has brought together local polycarbonate manufacturer Vivunes, dried fruit manufacturer MCI Agro Technologies and the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) with a view to supporting farmers. With their help, 70 small and marginal farmers can now benefit from solar dryers and get the most out of their crops.
MCI engineer H.M. Sathyamurthy and his company aim to support farmers by showing them new or alternative harvesting methods: “We want to join forces with the farmers to help them produce local foodstuffs at a fair price and boost their crop yield as well as energy- and cost-efficiency. The ultimate aim is to provide healthy food that benefits society as a whole.”
Higher quality, higher output
The main advantage of the Covestro solution is its efficiency. The small amount of energy required for the ventilation system, among other things, is provided exclusively by solar power. Most important of all, the polycarbonate makes for highly efficient insulation. The sun’s rays are able to penetrate the unique structure of the material, allowing the dryer to heat up quickly. If the sun shines down from dawn till dusk, temperatures inside the dryer can climb to 60 degrees Celsius, thus halving the drying time. At the same time, the material filters ultra-violet rays. This allows the products’ natural color to be retained for the most part – a major advantage when selling the dried snacks. “We can now produce better-quality products in half the time,” says Sathyamurthy. Other solar dryers are heated with diesel or other fossil fuels, using so much energy as to account for 25 percent of the operating costs.
Collaboration to make the world a brighter place
Once Mallappan spotted the opportunity, he didn’t hesitate. “I knew at once that it was the best solution for my produce; I didn’t need any time to consider it.” And he was quickly proved right: “There are no quantity restrictions and I can sell my entire crop. There’s absolutely no waste as I can deliver and sell both ripe and unripe fruit.” Not only does he save the costs of transport to the market, but he earns more and is paid directly, not via a middle man. “The solar dryers have improved my life and that of my family significantly.”
When we meet Mallappan again on his land, he is smiling broadly. Thanks to the efforts of a German materials provider, his life has taken a massive turn for the better after years in the doldrums. He will continue to take his crop to MCI’s solar dryers, and has told friends and neighbors about this new means of doing business, so that they can improve their lives too. This hasn’t reduced his workload in the fields, however, and so the farmer from southern India gets back to his plow without further ado.