Post-harvest losses of agricultural produce by rotting, due to poor transportation and storage facilities is one of the major drawbacks of the Indian Economy. According to estimates published in 2018, Indian farmers incur thousands of crores per year because of poor post-harvest management. The problem is only going to aggravate in the post-pandemic world. In quest of a potent solution to this gruelling problem, researchers from the Centre of Sustainable Polymers, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati led by Prof. Vimal Katiyar, have come up with an effective solution by designing a simple, eco-friendly, sustainable, and cost-effective technology for the preservation of fresh produces after harvesting.
The researchers have developed an inexpensive biopolymer-based edible coating for highly consumed fresh produces, TOP (Tomato, Onion & Potato). This innovative biopolymer-based coating significantly improved the tomato’s shelf life by nearly about one month when stored under ambient conditions. The coating has been found to be highly effective on freshly harvested potato and onion with an extended shelf life of more than two months, while notably delaying the sprouting in stored onion at room condition. Interestingly, this biopolymer-based coating is edible and has been proved to be completely non-hazardous to the environment and human health alike. It does not contribute to cytotoxicity. The USP of this edible coating is that it is washable and can be used as per specific requirements.
The edible coating has surpassed expectations in terms of effectiveness in enhancing shelf life while retaining freshness during long storage via blocking the moisture and delaying the ripening process.
Importantly, the developed technique is being predicted to be technically feasible and economically sustainable even for small-scale farmers as it does not require any cost-intensive equipment and hence will be immensely feasible and accessible even for small-scale farmers.
Thus, it would aid Indian farmers or agronomists to not only break even but also score profits from their produces by cutting down huge post-harvest losses for perishable fruits and vegetables during the peak seasons when storage facilities are over-burdened.
The researchers are optimistic, that their sustainable technology can boost and reform the Indian agricultural sector by avoiding inflation in the food sector and macroeconomic instability. This technology may turn out to be pivotal in poverty alleviation and rural development in the Indian context by the involvement of agrarian SHGs in its production. Development of adequate storage infrastructure, using this technology can improve the price realization of the crops, add value (in terms of texture, nutritional parameters, flavour, and appearance) to agricultural products, and most importantly ensure proper remuneration for farmers, thereby aiding the nation to stride forward in its quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.