Pune Inc: A startup on a mission to make people ‘climate smart’

Pune-based Ecozen, a climate-smart deep tech startup, announced earlier this month that it has raised Rs 54 crore and is in talks for the remaining Rs 200 crore funding. Founded by IIT Kharagpur alumni Devendra Gupta, Prateek Singhal and Vivek Pandey, Ecozen technologies are being deployed in the agricultural sector for irrigation and cooling. The products are solar pump controllers called Ecotron, which occupy nearly 20 percent of the Indian market, and solar cold storage rooms called Ecofrost, which make up 50 percent.

“For farmers, who do not have access to power, we are providing the Ecotron, which uses our own controller and motor, to do more of the production. Currently, a lot of farmers rely on electric and diesel grid-connected pump combinations, among other things. We help them to Reducing diesel cost and increasing their yields “With efficient irrigation, they can have three or four crops,” says Gupta in a phone interview. A cold storage room allows farmers to keep their goods fresh for longer as they decide where they want to sell their produce and to whom.

With the growth of the Indian market, Ecozen estimates that its turnover will more than double compared to last year. “The investment we have collected will enable us to increase our capacity and features to meet local demand, even as we try to enter other markets in Africa and Southeast Asia. We are also trying to build a team to nurture exports,” says Gupta. In a major turnaround, the company is exploring the use of its technology “Part of the capital we raised will go to building innovative products for these sectors,” says Gupta.

The 2019 National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture Project, which examined the impact of climate change on agriculture, found that yields of crops such as rice, wheat and maize were particularly poor. Ecosin’s response to non-seasonal rains and groundwater depletion is to establish controls and methods for conserving water, “where the farmer is able to better schedule and manage it.” “They can use energy irrigation to do their agriculture and save their crop. Through these mechanisms, we are trying to help farmers manage climate change a little better.

Ecozen is present in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and Jharkhand and targets UP, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and the Southern Belt. “Products are capital intensive, so we are targeting progressive clients across India. We are on a mission to make people climate smart and enable them to better handle the vagaries of climate change.

Kenya, where the company is conducting pilot projects, presents a sharp new challenge. “Irrigation penetration there is less than 15 percent. Infrastructure, including roads and logistics is not very good. Commodity prices are very high. We feel that the economic solutions that our technology can offer in Africa are very high. We are trying to prove that using smart and sustainable solar-based solutions for irrigation and cold storage will help improve livelihoods in Africa, he says.

The world is experiencing its warmest summer, which makes the interventions of governments, organisations, individuals and businesses even more intense. “I hope that as things move south, we have people trying to figure out ways to control it. But as this happens, there will be difficulties and challenges and technologies will be important going forward,” says Gupta.

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