Biofuels, a Pathway to a Greener and More Sustainable Future

We live in a world where the global market for biofuels and renewable energy sources continues to grow because they mitigate greenhouse gasses, provide energy independence, and offer new employment possibilities. In May 2022, the Prime Minister of India approved amendments to the national biofuel policy to reduce India’s dependency on oil imports to meet its energy demands. 

Today we chat with our innovator, Mr. Akash Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer at New Leaf Dynamic Technologies, about his vision to provide access to affordable refrigeration facilities across India without depending on unreliable grid power or diesel-dependent sets. He gave us an expansive view of GreenCHILL™, the challenges faced, and the future of technology.

Are biofuels the solution to the impending energy crisis? Please explain.

Biofuels are produced directly from organic materials or biomass. The most common producers are plant materials and animal waste. In terms of agriculture, biofuels can be taken from crops, forestry, and animal by-products. We commonly use biofuels as substitutes for fossil fuels. With the growing pressure to lower carbon emissions, applying biofuels is a plausible solution to replace oil soon. This change in energy sources will bring a competitive advantage to alternative fuels. In addition, population growth will result in substantially increasing energy consumption. To respond to this growing demand, we need to use natural resources more efficiently and increase the use of renewable energy, such as biofuels.

You say that GreenCHILL has no dependency on India’s grids or diesel. So what does this innovation really do?

GreenCHILL™ is an adsorption cycle-based refrigeration system for farmers and farmer producer companies, either on or near the farm. Instead of electricity or fossil fuels, it is powered using farm waste or biomass.

In addition, GreenCHILL™ utilizes a green refrigerant which makes it environmentally sustainable. The system has been built to store agricultural produce at the village/farm level before it is transported to the market or to a processing facility. It can be integrated with new or existing industrial standard cold storage and bulk milk coolers.

What inspired you to come up with the idea of the development of GreenCHILL?

Our dairy farmers have been honored with the availability of village and block-level milk chilling centers. Today, milk chillers have effectively helped reduce milk spoilage and motivated farmers to increase milk production. [On the flip side] the production of fruits and vegetables has been growing year on year, [but] farmers’ losses have been increasing at the same rate. This inspired us to develop an affordable refrigeration technology that does not depend on grid power or diesel-generating sets. A farmgate technology [that] can be accessed by utilizing farm waste for running cold rooms to reduce post-harvest loss. This will increase income and build farmer-centric micro-enterprises by prolonging perishable produce’s shelf-life.

What actions do you take to advance gender equality?

We provide extensive support to women-led farmer producer companies and their farmer members with access to finance, support on post-harvest management and building market linkages. Also, our preference is to locally train women farmers

to manage cold room operations (i.e., loading, unloading, sorting, grading, cleaning, or waxing of perishable produce). This generates additional income as part of [Sustainable Development Goal 8] for empowering women who are engaged in the agriculture sector.

What are the challenges that you face in convincing farmers to adopt GreenCHILL?

It is like teaching a new subject to farmers. They have been part of the supply chain but were not in control of its operation. Having a storage infrastructure at the farm enables farmers to reduce the harvest losses at the first mile and aggregate large quantities to be sold to market, thereby doubling their income. But to make all the above happen, we need to build an ecosystem that empowers farmers to afford and manage the cold room operations (i.e., provide access to finance, support on post-harvest management and build market linkages without which installation of on-farm storage doesn’t reap its benefits).

What is the current status and future plans for New Leaf Dynamics for its GreenCHILL technology? How many farmers do you want to reach with your innovation?

GreenCHILL™ has no net carbon and GHG emissions and is currently running at more than 70 sites in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, [and many others]. In addition, the company is presently reaching out to farmers and is also involved in ventures that work with farmers and want to care for the community to expand its reach to 100,000 farmers in the next three years.

How will you inspire other innovators to develop ideas to save the environment?

More than ideas, it is a problem that leads to a solution. We should work towards supporting our agriculture community and making them climate resilient thereby providing simple fixes to farmers’ needs.

New Leaf Dynamic Technologies is the inventor of biomass-powered refrigeration technology GreenCHILL™, which relies on renewable energy sources like dry crop waste,  biogas, biomass pellets, rice husk, biomass pellets and other farm waste. New Leaf’s expertise is in establishing an end-to-end cold supply chain from farm to fork and guiding farmers on post-harvest management practices to handle harvested produce to reduce supply chain losses.

Yogeeta Sharma is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist for the WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub. Previously, she has worked with various USAID programs and gained essential experience in the development sector. She loves bringing innovators’ vision into a virtual reality here at WE4F.