Superplum, an India-based startup near New Delhi, has developed an innovative cold chain solution for fresh fruit produce called the Fresherator. This container, which can attach itself to any 24-foot (8-meter) truck, has the ability to transport 4-7 tonnes of fruit from the farm and keep it fresh up to four weeks at a stretch, apparently offering effective cold chain storage and transport solution for India’s fresh fruit market.
“The Fresherator container converts any truck into a state-of-the-art Reefer vehicle with remote management of temperature, oxygen, humidity, and ethylene levels of fresh produce. The solution can also automatically adjust ideal settings, depending on the fruits being carried from point A to point B. It drastically increases the availability of refrigerated transport and lowers costs as well,” explains Shobhit Gupta, who launched Superplum in February 2020.
India produces many and plentiful varieties of fruits, and is the world’s second largest producer of fruit and vegetables, but the country is also an importer. Compared to vegetables, spices and other produce that travel reasonably well, fruits are far more perishable. The lack of a robust cold chain delivery system means that a large chunk of India’s fresh fruit produce ripen quickly and spoil long before they reach consumers, Gupta says.
The lack of farm-level infrastructure, a modern supply chain, and cold chain transport leads to 25% to 30% food wastage and overall low quality. According to Gupta, less than 2% of the fresh produce sold is transported in a cold chain.
Custom engineered from scratch, the Fresharator works like any refrigerated container. With a standard IoT (Internet of Things) system, which operates through a cellular network, it can remotely control temperature, humidity, oxygen and ethylene levels. The company can update and send commands to the system proactively. For example, it can facilitate ethylene extraction and create a zero-oxygen environment for some fruits.
Based on the load and type of fruit, the system can set the temperature, and humidity levels. It does not require an external power source.
Superplum is in the process of applying for a patent. The organisation is backed by some of Silicon Valley’s venture capital organisations. It also operates a comprehensive technology platform, FreshManager, which, it claims, ensures traceability of every fruit right to the farm
Currently, the venture works with approximately 230 farms and orchards, where it tests the soil, fruit and water for over 80 product-specific pesticides and contaminants. It supplies produce to about 320 stores in the Delhi-NCR region and Bengaluru.
While Covid-19 disrupted operations early on, it has now picked up the pace and is looking to ramp up the distribution network. Over the next three years, Superplum is looking to build a presence in 10 Indian major cities.