Farm-to-fork: Noida-based firm comes up with low-cost cold chain systems to transport fruits

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on July 28, 2021

Superplum sets up cold rooms near farm gates, launches innovative software, transport solutions

A fully digitized farm-to-store supply chain start-up, Superplum, has come up with innovative low-cost cold chain systems along with transportation facility, designed for Indian conditions to market fruits.

The Noida-based firm has come up with these systems to meet the needs of a proper cold chain from the growing centres to consumer centres, said Shobhit Gupta, Founder and CEO, Superplum. “A proper cold chain is lacking right from the growers’ end. Consumers do not have any information on the produce they consume, including quality. Farmers, too, are unaware of the demand for their produce. Superplum was set up exactly to bridge these gaps,” said Gupta.

Cold room feature

One of the features of the start-up, which has begun marketing fruits such as mangoes, cherries, plums, pears and peaches in Delhi and Bengaluru, is that it can assemble cold rooms in a short span of time and dismantle them at the same speed. “We have set up such cold rooms in six States, including Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh,” the Superplum founder said, adding that the company has set up modern cold chains in clusters as part of its efforts to improve infrastructure.

Temperatures in the cold rooms are controlled and this helps reduce post-harvest wastage and generate more demand for the produce.

Saving costs

“This also helps avoid setting up expensive cold rooms in growing centres. Ours is a modular system that can be set up and dismantled during a fruit season, say six months,” Gupta said.

At least 25 fruits have been stored in the cold rooms, including 7-8 varieties of mangoes, cherries, plums, peaches and pears. “An advantage of our cold rooms is that it is cheaper than conservative ones,” he said.

The other system launched by Superplum is an innovative low-cost cold chain transport solution Fresherator. It is a “sophisticated solution” that helps transform any truck into a refrigerated vehicle. “We have developed 24 feet refrigerated container vehicles. This alleviates India’s acute shortage of refrigerated transport,” Gupta said.

Poor farm infrastructure

Superplum was set up last year after the seed money was raised in 2019. “Food and agriculture sector is under-served. The Government spends a lot on these sectors but probably a bit inefficiently. Our research revealed that farm-level infrastructure hardly existed and there was no proper supply chain,” Gupta said.

With this in mind, Superplum developed technology and farm-level contacts in 8-9 months and then started operations last year, the company’s founder said.

Also read: Godrej Appliances expands vaccine cold-chain portfolio

Superplum has attracted investments from Silicon Valley investors such as Dan Rose, Chairman of Coatue Ventures, Mark Siegel of Menlo Ventures, Binny Bansal, former Co-Founder of Flipkart, Steve Jurvetson, Founder of Future Ventures and Kabir Misra of RPS venture and Softbank.

The start-up recently raised $3.8 million (₹28.28 crore) as pre-series A funding to get the company off the ground. The company has totally received $6.8 million (₹50.61 crore) funding since its inception. “The fresh capital is being used to build out farm infrastructure, augment the management team, and expand the company distribution capabilities,” Gupta said.

Tech platform

The other special feature of Superplum’s operations is a comprehensive technology platform, FreshManager, that ensures every fruit is traceable to the farm. “Consumers can even check lab test reports and product parameters. FreshManager is uniquely designed for Indian conditions and small farms,” Gupta said.

Stating that Superplum would build the country’s most sophisticated supply chain for fresh produce, he said the software system has been created to manage quality, traceability, scan QR codes, record temperatures, including that of transportation, and include results of tests for pesticides residues.

Explaining the start-up’s work process, Gupta said Superplum worked with farmers across the country to ensure product quality right from the source.

Sourcing quality produce

“The company is bringing together multiple skill sets: agriculture technology, modern software, IoT technology, and cold chain technology to provide a ground-up solution that works for both farmers as well as consumers. We also ensure the quality of fruits at the source,” he said.

Superplum transports all produce from farms to retail stores in its innovative custom-designed temperature and humidity-controlled supply chain. Fruits are also lab-tested for pesticides and chemicals, he said.

Till now, it has delivered over 1,000 tonnes of fresh produce despite the Covid shutdowns. Superplum has worked with farmers across 15 States and has plans to expand its footprint. “We help farmers during harvest and guide them during the fruiting process,” Gupta said, adding that Superplum will expand its operations to Mumbai next month.

Published on July 28, 2021

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