Project Title:

Landscape Study of Decentralized Cold Storages in India and Assessment of Deployed Decentralized Agri Cold Storages

About SELCO Foundation

SELCO Foundation is an open-source, not-for-profit organization that engages in field-based R&D and ecosystem building for the deployment of clean energy solutions that alleviate poverty in tribal, rural, and urban poor areas. The organization works closely with practitioners in the social sector, energy entrepreneurs, and partners from various developmental sectors.


Indian farmers incur loss of INR 92,651 (1) crore per year in post-harvest losses alone, the primary cause of which are poor storage and transportation facilities. Other issues include limited technical know-how on good agricultural practices, lack of market knowledge and inadequate market access. In the absence of proper storage facilities, farmers of perishable commodities such as fruits and vegetables have been rendered devoid of their livelihoods in both the immediate and the long term.

The DRE-based cold storage units at the farm level can help reduce post-harvest agricultural losses, improve farmer profits and provide climate co-benefits. Powered by renewable energy like solar PV or biomass, these solutions can reduce reliance on diesel, overcome grid reliability issues, and be made available in geographies where grid infrastructure is still non-existent. But the high upfront capital expenditure associated with DRE-based cold storage facilities has constrained adoption, hence restricting the market scale of these solutions. There is a recognized need to pilot different types of business models which can improve the affordability of these solutions for different categories of end users, primarily individual farmers, Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), and other grass-roots community-led organizations.

Within the agriculture vertical at SELCO Foundation, decentralized agri cooling has emerged as one of the primary priorities for the organization in terms of building replicable and scalable models across different geographies. SELCO Foundation with its technology partners has deployed solar power cold storage at 62 locations. These are designed to store fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, processed food, and other perishable commodities. A small-scale solar- powered cold room enables both pre-cooling and storage of perishable - thereby helping preserve their freshness and maximizing their shelf life. The system is a solar standalone operation and consists of a solar + DG/Grid hybrid operation. The smart control system helps maintain the temperature, humidity, and air quality parameters precisely as per the product requirement. It consists of a battery-less compressor operation (small battery for auxiliary loads and control system) and a thermal backup due to the PCM plates (24-30 hours). It is a completely portable unit and has very minimal maintenance. So far SF has deployed approximately 69 solar-powered cold storage across 11 states of India. The first cold storage was deployed in the year 2018. Most of the cold storage was adopted by FPOs or cooperatives. The size of the cold storage varies from 2 MT to 30 MT.

Study Rationale and Objectives

The agri cooling program at SELCO Foundation is hinging towards the scaling stage, and needs to account for learnings from and beyond the current program design before being rolled out at scale. In order to scale a viable and sustainable model of DRE agri cooling, it is pertinent to learn from the successes, best practices, challenges and gaps in existing programs being implemented in India. To ensure a comprehensive capture and understanding of the indicators relating to cold storage, SELCO Foundation proposes to compartmentalize the study into two major Study Objectives:

OBJECTIVE 1: To understand the landscape of decentralized agri cold storage in India

OBJECTIVE 2: To evaluate the impact of DRE-based agri cold storages deployed by SELCO Foundation

Objective 1: The landscape study aims to answer the following research questions:

A) What are the best practices and learnings for design and implementation of decentralized agri cooling in India?

B) Who are the key stakeholders at the national and regional levels for:

  • a. Decentralized agri cooling technology
  • b. Financial and business models for decentralized agri cold storage
  • c. Backward and forward linkages

C) What are the key financial and business models adopted by decentralized agri cold storage stakeholders? (and the rationale for the same)

D) What are the best practices being followed for OnM of decentralized agri cold storage in India?

E) What is the human resource and training requirement for successful design, procurement, installation, and OnM for agri cold storages in India?

F) What are the policy level priorities of decision making persons for agri cooling in India? (and rationale for the same) What is the awareness levels of decentralized agri cooling in decision making persons?

Objective 2: The evaluation aims to capture the following:

The proposed study shall make an attempt to dig into the aspects such as short and long-term impacts on farmer communities, the level and type of benefits when compared to the grid electricity or diesel-powered cold storage, and the financial feasibility of the solution. The evaluation study should provide insights into to what extent DRE- based cold storages are efficient in reducing post-harvest losses (PHL) of rural farmers and increasing their profit margins. The key research questions include the following:

a) To what extent the smallholder farmers in the catchment area of the solar-powered cold storage benefitted due to the intervention?

  • Increased value to the crop
  • Reduction in post-harvest loss
  • Reduction in the distance of the cold storage facility
  • Availability of better or regular market
  • Diversification of crops
  • Increases agriculture productivity in the catchment area
  • Changes in storage practices as well as growing practices

b) How did Solar powered cold storage influence the ecosystem of local agriculture businesses?

  • Backward and forward linkages - traders, retailers, grocery stores
  • Better quality products
  • Improved shelf life

c) What are the key strengths and weaknesses of cold storage entrepreneurs which contributed to the success or failure of their business?

  • Ownership profile- FPO/FPC vs Individual owner,
  • Entrepreneur’s skills, network, and aspirations
  • Business model and strategies: Service and trader model vs mix model
  • Storage capacity, Commodities handled
  • Local crop patterns and seasonality

d) Program design -What key project design components have demonstrated higher effectiveness?

  • What worked and didn't work?
  • Local factors (triggers and barriers) affected the program's success
  • Financial leverage
  • Technical and Implementation partners
  • Cost-effective measures for system-level adoption of the model
  • Using program results for advancing policy discourse to scale up the solar-powered cold storage

Research Design:

Agency to propose a separate, robust evaluation design and methodologies for both research objectives. This may entail a mixed methods approach, involving qualitative interviews, and a desk review. A detailed proposal needs to be prepared by the agency on how the information will be collated by supplementing the desk review, and secondary information with the data that will be captured through survey, In-depth interviews (IDIs) and observations and FGDs.

For Objective 2, the following aspects must be accounted for in the research design:

Comparison arm: Interested research agencies are encouraged to propose an appropriate methodology to select the comparison arm. SF will get access to non-intervention sites.

Sample Size: The Agency is free to suggest a representative sample size by looking at the scope of work as outlined above objectives. The Agency is encouraged to include key informants such as cold storage entrepreneurs, farmers, traders /retailers, and value chain players in the study respondent group. The total number of DRE-based cold storage units deployed is 69, which are spread across geographies in the following manner:

2MT 5MT 6MT 8MT 10MT 15MT 20MT 30MT Grand Total
Andhra Pradesh/Telangana 1 1
Assam 3 1 4
Gujarat 1 1
Jharkhand 2 1 3 6
Karnataka 14 1 3 3 1 22
Madhya Pradesh 2 1 3
Maharashtra 1 1
Manipur 3 3
Meghalaya 13 13
Odisha 1 8 1 1 11
Rajasthan 1 1
Tamil Nadu 1 1
Telangana 2 2
Grand Total 2 50 2 4 8 1 1 1 69

Scope of Work: Objective 1

The scope of work for the landscape study is as follows:

1. Stakeholder mapping for finance, business models, ownership models, backward and forward linkages, training, policy, and other key aspects of the ecosystem for decentralized agri cooling in India (secondary + primary)

2. Examine and analyze models for decentralized agri cold storages in India based on above factors

3. Select 4-5 program models for deep-dive analysis – based on a developed selection criteria for the same

4. In-depth analysis of program design, implementation for 4-5 selected programs in terms of ownership model, financial models, operational model, HR, training, learnings, gaps and challenges. Enablers and barriers in the ecosystem need to be understood. (primary study)

5. Collate and present overall, and model-wise findings and analysis on learnings, best practices, gaps, challenges and opportunities for decentralized agri cooling in India

Aspects to be considered should encompass (but not be limited to) the following:

1. Stakeholder Mapping

  • - Technology:
    • - DRE Technology Benchmarking
    • - Comparison with the other Grid based Technologies
    • - Reach of DRE Tech and Grid based Tech (geography + commodity + usage)
    • - Supply chain and servicing
  • - Finance
    • - Financial Products (Agri Assets and Cold Storage specifically)
    • - Philanthropies or Global Aid Agencies - Program Mapping
    • - On-Paper vs Deployment (Process and Learnings)- Supply side understanding (geographical spread and customer profile)
    • - DRE and Grid Unlocking (Process and Learnings)- Demand side finance mix and unlocking process
  • - Backward and Forward Linkages
    • - Commodities
    • - Aggregation Size
    • - Seasonal Use
    • - Catered Markets
    • - Position in the Agri Chain
    • - Position in the Cold Chain
  • - Human Resource
    • - Demand from the Operator: technical knowledge (agri + cold storage)
    • - Profile of Operator of Agri Cold Storage
    • - Training and Hand-holding Programs and Status
  • - Policy
    • - Priorities and awareness
    • - Certifications (DRE vs Grid)
    • - Empanelments (DRE vs Grid)
    • - Subsidies (DRE vs Grid)
    • - Training (DRE vs Grid)

2. Deep-dive 4-5 Programsi.e. Philanthropy Programs, Financial Schemes, PPP models, etc

  • - Structure of the program
  • - Deployment process and Actual deployment
  • - Impact
  • - Learnings

Tasks and Deliverables: Objective 1

The key deliverables for the Landscape Study are as proposed:

  • 1. Inception report – with final methodology for stakeholder mapping, criteria for program selection for program deep dive study, and methodology for deep dive
  • 2. Stakeholder map/list
  • 3. Draft report of key findings on learnings, best practices, gaps and challenges – overall and program-wise
  • 4. Final report of key findings on learnings, best practices, gaps and challenges – overall and program-wise
  • 5. PPT summarizing key findings

Scope of Work and Deliverables: Objective 2

  • Inception meeting
  • Site visits
  • Development of inception report
  • Literature review report
  • Expectations of the assignment
  • Team composition and roles and responsibilities within the Consultant team
  • Any refinements and elaboration to study questions, Methods – qualitative and quantitative, sample size
  • Research matrix linking questions – methods & tools – data sources and indicators (Proposed List of Stakeholders and Methods / Tools to be applied with each stakeholder)
  • Analysis plan containing dummy tables addressing all objectives and indicators
  • Outline of the study report
  • Ethical considerations
  • Quality control mechanism
  • Gantt chart and work plan
  • Inception report
  • Presentation
  • Development of study tools
  • Filed testing of study tools
  • Presenting the findings from field testing and feedback
  • Finalising the study tools
  • Translation of study tools
  • Findings from field testing
  • Final data collection tools – Translated
  • Development of training agenda (Qualitative and quantitative)
  • Classroom training
  • Field practice
  • Debriefing
  • Brief training report
  • Field work plan
  • Debriefing meeting after one round of data collection for course corrections
  • Data quality assurance
  • Field work plan
  • Field work completion report
  • Top-line findings to be discussed with SF in a debrief meeting
  • Submission of raw and clean quantitative and qualitative data sets
  • Submission of audio recordings, transcription, and photographs
  • Top-line findings
  • Data sets
  • Data Analysis
  • Development and submission of the draft report
  • Feedback and comments from SF
  • Submission of the final report
  • Final presentation on the study findings
  • Analysis table
  • Final report
  • Final presentation (ppt)
  • Dissemination

Other tasks:

a) Approvals: Agency shall identify the stakeholders and seek approvals for data collection. SF can support in facilitating connections and will provide the possible support.

b) Reporting of progress and submission of deliverables: the Agency will be expected to regularly interact, communicate and update SF on the various activities undertaken in an agreed format. The agency will be responsible for submitting high-quality deliverables to SF on time, based on the schedule decided during the subsequent contract agreements.


SELCO Foundation will own the Copyright of this study. This will include data, photographs, reports, and any other material created and collected as per the mandate of this study. IPR of the study will also be with SELCO Foundation. All the information received for the duration of this assignment from the SELCO foundation has to be treated with confidentiality and must not be shared without prior written permission.


Activities Objective 1 Objective 2
Inception and Preparation Month 1 Month 1
Stakeholder mapping and selection for deep dive Month 2 NA
Field Activities/Data Collection Month 3 & 4 Month 3 & 4
Data analysis and preliminary findings Month 5 Month 5
Reporting and Dissemination Month 6 Month 6

Essential Qualification of the Consultant

The agency should have a qualified, skilled, and experienced team to carry out various activities as mentioned above:

  • The agency should have a minimum of 5 years of experience in conducting research/ study/ evaluation/ monitoring and proven and relevant expertise in renewable energy, solar energy, agriculture, agri- enterprise, horticulture, Agri-cooling system, etc
  • The agency team should have experience in the design and management of program evaluation, landscape research studies, implementation research. Demonstrated expertise in research, evaluation, and monitoring skills is required, including developing complex and large-scale evaluation/research/monitoring designs, and methodology.
  • The agency should have skilled persons with proven expertise in research, impact evaluation, and core thematic areas of agri cooling, value chain
  • A pan-India presence and proven track record of on-time performance on assignments of similar scale. The agency should have successfully executed at least 5 multi-state research/ study/ evaluation/ monitoring activities in the past 5 years.
  • The agency should have a track record of an effective system for internal quality assurance and ethical review.
  • At least three client references and contact information should be provided. The references should be limited to work done within the past five years and specific to India in relevant fields.


The proposal needs to include CVs of key personnel, organizational credentials, data collection capabilities in specified geographies, and detailed costing. Please include a Gantt chart showing timelines and dependencies as well. The proposal should include the following elements:

A. Cover page

B. Technical Proposal for Objective 1 + Objective 2

  • a. Agency profile (Same for both objectives)
  • b. Evaluation approach, methodology, and Sample size (Separate for both objectives)
  • c. Team and person-days
  • d. Tentative timeline of activities (Separate for both objectives)
  • e. Resumes of team leader and team members
  • f. Short descriptions of other relevant projects done

C. Financial Proposal

The agency is requested to send a joint proposal for both objective 1 and 2 – with a break up of activities as per each objective

Agencies are requested to submit separate PDF documents for all of the above and name the file –Proposal SF Impact Evaluation of Cold Storages (Agency Name) _DD/MM/YYYY. We request you to submit your proposal by 11/03/2023 to