Chennai-based MicroGO, a unique start-up engaged in the cleaning and hygiene industry, has launched farm-to-fork hygiene management of 10 to 12 horticulture crops, such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beans and carrots to cut their wastage for the benefit of farmers and processing companies.
“We have tried to focus on the holy grail of Indian cooking because these are the vegetables which we see a lot on a daily basis. As we progress we would want to go to the more exotic ones,” said Rachna Dave, CEO and Founder, MicroGO.
MicroGO, which focuses on providing smart, assured, sustainable and service solutions, has also launched “Go Smart Platform” to convert an ordinary kitchen into a smart kitchen from August 15 commemorating the 75th year of independence.
Working on entire facet
The company is looking at it how a produce is being harvested by the farmer, transported to and stored at the cold storage before being taken to the end consumer, Dave said, adding that MicroGO is working on the entire facet of this chain. “Every produce has a different way of storage. You can’t store carrots and beans in the same way. You need to kind of have different systems to store each one of them,” she said.
Before that, the crops are processed as microbes or invisible bacteria or else viruses that come from the soil could affect the produce. The crops are disinfected through a smart process. Each crop has a specific disinfection requirement and the firm meets each need.
“Our system will actually find that out. Potatoes require gas fumigation. Our systems will do that,” Dave said.
MicroGO uses crate-like containers called cracon, which have been classified to handle the crops in three broad ranges. These are based on the crops’ respiration rates. “We are working on technology that will create an alert when produce is going to go bad. The end-user or transporter or the farmer will receive the alerts so that they can either sell or process it immediately before it becomes rotten or starts losing its nutritional capability,” she said.
MicroGO works with aggregators on these produce. “We work with whole storages and shopkeepers. Of course, our intention is to work with farmers but not at this moment,” said the CEO of the firm, which has Oberoi hotels and resorts, IHCL (TAJ and Vivanta), IRCTC, GRT hotels and resorts as its clients.
Engaged with bigger players
The farm-to-fork hygiene management has 10-12 “big farmers” working with it, while MicroGo has begun working with a Chennai-based start-up to provide these solutions. In Gujarat, it is engaged with local aggregators, says the founder.
“Changing mindset is a difficult task but fortunately, we have good partners who are helping us in this and possibly, we will be able to achieve what we want to do one day. There is a lot of work to do as farmers are used to just harvesting and storing in gunny bags,” Dave said.
Firms in agri-processing have to employ more labour for these activities and MicroGO is making them aware of the necessity. “But when you save 20-25 per cent of the losses, it will definitely be welcome. It takes a lot of hard work to convince them,” she said, adding that this is one reason why the company is working with bigger players.
Go Smart platform
Dwelling on the “Go smart platform”, she said MicroGO’s fight is against bacteria and viruses that are invisible to the naked eye. “Any problem around it becomes ten-fold or manifold and difficult to solve as people cannot see the problem. In such a situation, any solution around it gets more difficult. Even the awareness around that problem is tough,” she said.
The company, founded in 2016 based on research and development, began piloting its technologies with anchor customers in 2020 before product commercialization in 2022. It has made a mark in the food and healthcare industries.
MicroGO began working with the food industry focussing on the water used in the food processing plant. “Water is the most important commodity if you look at it into any business food definitive for washing, processing, manufacturing and all sorts of activities,” Dave said.
Customers lacking data
MicroGO assured its customers that if the water is disinfected with its GoPro solution, it will meet the basic requirement of 0.2 parts per million total residual oxidants. “So when this was happening, we understood the other problems with the customer not being empowered with data. They did not know that the water that came from the municipality got mixed with sewage water and, therefore, the organic load was high,” she said.
So the company came up with an Internet of Things-enabled system that is integrated into its GoPro system. This helps the customer or user know if the water was treated or not and when. This can help do a correction on a daily basis rather than try to set things right after the damage has been done.
This has resulted in MicroGO offering sustainability features that help the customers financially and environmentally. “Saving or reducing wastage results in lowering expenses. Environmentally, too, this is sustainable as the amount of produce that is dumped as waste leading to greenhouse gas emissions is less, Dave said.
The company’s products are basically an investment rather than an expenditure. A central kitchen today follows various regulations, including a separate one if the customer is exporting. “Everytime a person enters the kitchen, they have to perform a set of regulations such as performing hand hygiene and full-time hygiene. At the workstation, the place has to be sterilised or disinfected on an hourly basis, including chopping bowls, cutlery knives and the other things they use. Again, there are different sets of regulations for vegetarian and non-vegetarian ones,” the company’s founder said.
Besides ensuring hygiene every time a person enters the kitchen, the humidity and temperature have to be maintained as any fluctuation could result in the food turning bad.
“There are so many components in the kitchen which have to be monitored. So, we have come up with a smart dashboard that helps the user or the hygiene manager to look at each and every department or the section in his kitchen and see if the standard operating procedures are followed for humans as well as machines,” Dave said.
The smart dashboard triggers an alarm in case of any lapse so that the hygiene manager can immediately go to the kitchen or talk to the supervisor and ensure that the course correction is done immediately.
MicroGO has 35 people working with it in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Initially, the company was bootstrapped for four years before it got funds from the government’s schemes and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations besides grants from the Tamil Nadu government.
Recently, too, MicroGO raised another seed round to help in its operation, while the company has begun reaching out to customers this year. So far, it has raised ₹10.3 crore totally.