Even today, more than 50% of the Indian population belongs to the primary sector. It has been a long time since we have been hearing the problems faced by farmers because of their crops getting spoiled. But the major problem faced in our country is that after the farm produce has been harvested, storing them for a long time leads to the farm produce going to waste.
Fruits and vegetables in our houses if kept untouched for 2-3 days, they start getting stale. And there is only one solution to this problem, i.e. to throw it. Our farmers and vegetable sellers also lose 30% of their profit due to this issue. Similarly, around 32% of the country’s fresh produce is wasted to post-harvest losses and Navork Innovations is trying to address this problem.
Team Sociobits connected with Mr. Abhishek Sahgal, co-founder and CEO of Navork Innovations where he shared their innovation how they are increasing the shelf life of mushrooms.
Team Sociobits: Would you like to share a little about the co-founders and tell us about Navork Innovations?
Co-Founder: Navork Innovations is a spin-off from IIT Delhi, built under the guidance of Prof. Samrat Mukhopadhyay. We have built a novel solution from a plant-based extract that will improve the shelf life of farm produce, beginning with mushrooms. Currently, we are incubated at SINE IIT Bombay and our technology will improve the agri-tech supply chain while making farming and selling vegetables more profitable.
We started our journey on 11th June 2018 and our leadership comprises me, an IIT Delhi and KTH Sweden graduate, and the CEO of Navork. Affan Karel, a Post Graduate and Gold Medallist from Mumbai University who looks after the product development in our organization, and Shashwati Nanda, a Post Graduate from Mumbai University and the Product Lead for our new product initiative.
If you ask your bhajiwala (vegetable seller) how much he loses due to post-harvest losses, then you will know that he dumps almost 1/3 rd of his share every night because of low shelf life.-Abhishek Sahgal, co-founder of Navork Innovations
Team Sociobits: What issues are you solving through ‘Navork Innovations’?
Co-Founder: Our country loses around 32% of its fresh produce to post-harvest losses. You can begin seeing the impact of this from farmers right up to the end retailer i.e. the vegetable sellers. The farmers are compelled to sell their vegetables at lower prices which leads to the dumping of prices at the distributor level. If you ask your bhajiwala (vegetable seller) how much he loses due to post-harvest losses, then you will know that he dumps almost 1/3 rd of his share every night because of low shelf life.
With our technology, we will increase the quality and shelf life of fruits and vegetables by 2.5 times at room temperature, as a result, we will increase the profitability of the whole agri-tech chain from farms so they can store the produce for a large time, they can sell at far places. The distributors will also have the ability to store produce for a longer period and the end vegetable sellers will reduce their losses as fruits and vegetables stay fresh and of better quality in turn increasing their selling time and profitability.
Team Sociobits: Since 2018, how has your journey with Navork been so far?
Co-Founder: Our team has always been extremely passionate about solving the country’s problems. The journey has been amazing! We have also worked tirelessly on our existing product Avran. Avran is a long-lasting surface disinfectant that has been supplied to over tens of thousands of people, many hotels, malls and has helped in preventing the spread of the virus.
Until now, we have done four patents in our research and are currently working to solve the biggest problem of Indian agriculture to reduce the suffering of our farmers.
Team Sociobits: What are some of the challenges that Navork has faced?
Co-Founder: One of the key problems that we have faced is developing a product that tackles everything to increase the shelf life of mushrooms. We have worked on all the aspects including, moisture loss prevention, respiration loss prevention, maintaining the whiteness of mushrooms, and reducing microbial load on them from a plant-based extract while keeping the solution at low cost. Developing an all-round solution and improving the shelf life of mushrooms by 2.5 times is a big challenge that team has overcome. We are the first company in the world to extend the shelf life of mushrooms.
Team Sociobits: Does Navork have any potential competitors? Why would users choose your solution?
Co-Founder: The potential competitors of Navork are modified atmosphere packaging companies. These systems change the gaseous atmosphere inside the package, surrounding the food. The gas barrier formed helps in preserving the food but we are the first in the world to extend the shelf life of mushrooms using a plant-based extract and we are five times cheaper as compared to the cost of modified atmosphere packaging for fruits.
Another reason why people opt for our solution is that our technology is eco-friendly and organic unlike plastics and does not require any extra infrastructure to use. It can be easily incorporated into existing farming practices.
Team Sociobits: Why did you begin with mushrooms? Are you looking to expand your technology to other fruits and vegetables?
Co-Founder: We began with mushrooms for primarily two reasons; first, mushrooms have a very low shelf life because of which farms have to shut their operations during winters in North India. Mushrooms also suffer the most post-harvest losses and they cannot be shipped to longer distances because our agricultural sector cannot maintain the cold storage which is required for them. Second, mushroom farms are large and consolidated. This makes it easy for technology to penetrate and improve the farms’ profitability.
Our solution not only protects mushrooms at room temperature but also makes them profitable and operational. It can also be extended to other fruits and vegetables as they also suffer from post-harvest losses due to moisture loss, respiration loss and microbial action.
Team Sociobits: What is Navork Innovations currently focusing on and what is your road map for the future?
Co-Founder: Apart from focusing on solving the problems faced by mushroom farms in India, we are helping them reduce post-harvest losses by 90% and increase profitability by 30%. We are also commercializing our technology and providing our solution to large mushroom farms in Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Region.
As of now, mushroom farms in northern India have shut down due to overproduction and unavailability of the market because of low shelf life. Our technology is helping them ship long distances and keep their business running.
We also have solutions for extending the shelf life of pears, bananas, and chickoos and in the next two years, our vision is to develop a technology for reducing post-harvest losses and increasing their profitability by 30% for each fruit. We aim to establish ourselves as a leader in improving the quality of produce in each fruit category.
Navork Innovations envisions itself as a leader in mitigating the post-harvest losses of farms and also increasing their profits. Beginning from mushrooms and moving to other fruits and vegetables, the company will reduce the burden of farmers to a large extent which will help in the overall development of the nation.