Sustainable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Strengthening Horticulture Value Chain

SELCO Foundation, Bangalore


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Pavithra Chandhrashekhar, Rachita Mishra


To scope sustainable energy for strengthening horticulture value chain.

Tomato crop and Potato crop were chosen as major intervention areas because of Operation TOP (Tomato Onion Potato) and the funders.


// Secondary research involved formation of findings about crop information; farming techniques, Permaculture methods, seasons, processing prospects, packaging prospects, storage, distribution/supply chain, consumption patterns, geography, existing technological solutions etc from reliable sources.

// Primary research was conducted in the districts of Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh and Hassan in Karnataka for tomato and potato crops respectively.  Field observational notes, in-depth interviews (user-centric approach) with FPO heads, traders, NGOs, Women farmers, Partners, Agri Institutes, SF partners were conducted. 

// During the synthesis and analysis stage there was formation of product journey (potato and tomato) maps - value chain + supply chain, mind maps, inter-connected circle maps, causal loop diagrams, hierarchy models were made. A wholesome ecosystem map with ecological, social, financial and technological factors was mapped to understand the need for stakeholders for solving the issues at hand. 

A part of this project got featured in the Service Design India (SSD India) medium page - click here to view. 

Key findings

  • The Andhra Pradesh State Government provides 9 hours free electricity daily. This has led to excess use of the same, excess flood irrigation and decrease in yield.

  • Farmers often do what their neighbours are doing and this chain goes on. Farmers choose their crops on the basis of the culture, experience and other farmers.

  • During summer months, production decreases by approximately 30%. Availability and accessibility of water is an issue because of limited fluctuating electricity and reducing ground water levels.

  • Market fluctuations with an arbitrary supply chain, lack of know-how among farmers, wastage caused by market related issues, water related issues, affect the tomato value chain the most.

  • Late blight, high market price fluctuation, heavy rains/droughts (climate) and lack of reliable electricity are the main issues faced by potato farmers.

Key insights

  • Decision making in farmers concerning farming techniques is based heavily on herd mentality.

  • Crops are chosen according to their traditional importance as opposed to input resource availability.

  • Resources (provision of free electricity) that are free in cost, gradually are devalued and over-exploited.

  • Farming revenues fluctuate so heavily that it is equivalent to risk-driven gambling.


Innovation in terms of product design for identified gaps was recommended unofficially, we were specifically asked for implementation of existing renewable energy based technologies.

Criteria of recommendations

Factors such as reduction of input cost, resource based gaps and reduction of carbon emissions were considered.

Final recomendations

  • The groundwater level in Andhra Pradesh vary from 1000ft to 1200ft. Solar power is not viable with cost and feasibility. Nurseries usually operate the whole year and often suffer from regular power cuts. To cover periods of load shedding, many nurseries are unable to irrigate their saplings or resort to using diesel-driven pumps as well. Hydroponics and rainwater harvesting for tomato nurseries in Andhra Pradesh were recommended.

  • Grading and sorting is practiced at every stage of the supply chain; farm-level, market-level, trader-level, supermarket-level. This leads to excessive waste and high labour cost (Rs.2-Rs.3 per crate, Rs. 500 per day) on all stages. Loading, unloading, packing, unpacking, grading and sorting are the activities that are included. FPOs in Andhra Pradesh have identified the need for technology intervention and have allocated land for primary processing units. Glut incidences due to oversupply can lead to excessive loss, farmers prefer to throw away their produce at such times. Grading and sorting processing units will have controlled supply chains with set market linkages, which will reduce the vulnerability and economic loss during excessive market fluctuation.
  • It was observed that Andhra Pradesh farmers have been applying excessive and unnecessary varieties of fertilizers and pesticides on their tomato crops. 40% increased input cost in two years was observed (30,000 INR per acre per cycle). At the Madanapalle mandi, there is 2-15 tons of waste observed on a daily basis based on the produce.  The current machines in the market form 60 kgs of compost, which is less in quantity and hence not useful. Market level renewable based bio-digesters can treat the waste efficiently. The waste is converted into solid and liquid bio manure which can be used by the farmers on farm.
  • Potato farmers in Hassan deal with fluctuating grid electricity (4-6 hours of electricity daily under the Nirantar Jyothi scheme). The inconsistent timings hampers their irrigation practice and disrupts their routines not allowing them autonomy. In case of heavy fluctuation, the farmers have lost their irrigation pump transformers. Dependency on irregular electricity makes the farmers irrigate excessively, resulting in yield loss and soil nutrition loss. RE based submersible water pumps will provide reliable access of water to the farmers and complete autonomy allowing them time to dedicate to other activities.
  • Seed potatoes are imported by the farmers from Punjab (2600km), or they are procured from local traders. It costs Rs. 4 - 4.5 per bag of seed potatoes, and can go up till Rs. 8 - 9 during high fluctuation. The farmers who procure it from Punjab, check on the quality and reduce input cost as they cut the middleman. Traders procure from Punjab too, but they store it in massive cold storages in Karnataka. There lies an excessive carbon cost to these seed potatoes. One truck for direct procurement can cost upto 1 lakh INR. The need for seed potato production in Hassan is in testing stage. A 5MT cold storage is recommended for safekeeping harvested seed potatoes.

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