Acumen has invested $1 million in Promethean Power Systems, a company producing off-grid rural milk chillers in India.
Access to reliable power supply remains a challenge in rural India: in 2018, an average of only six of India’s 29 states had 24-hour power supply in rural areas. The lack of energy poses a storage and cooling problem in the dairy industry, which sources milk from small-scale farmers spread across remote regions. Inconsistent rural energy supply makes operating local milk collection centers cost-prohibitive for national dairy companies as they would have to use expensive diesel generators to chill farmers’ milk. Instead, these companies often pay aggregators to collect farmers’ milk and bring it to the nearest chilling center, which can be a few hours’ drive away.
This is problematic for dairy farmers as well. To stop bacterial activity and preserve its quality, drawn milk must be chilled as soon as possible. However, because farmers’ milk waits for collection in unrefrigerated canisters—in vehicles with no cooling insulation—up to 30 percent of the milk can spoil, lowering the yield and decreasing farmers’ potential income.
India is the world’s largest milk producer—contributing as many as 167M tons each year—and farmers and dairy companies lose $1 billion of milk annually due to a lack of chilling facilities at the source.
Acumen’s new investee, Promethean Power Systems, was started to address the issue of rural cooling with its new milk refrigerators. Powered by efficient, thermal batteries, Promethean’s refrigerators chill batches of 1,000-2,000 liters of milk in areas with inconsistent power supply and reduce the cost of remote refrigeration by two-thirds. “While dairy is the largest ‘crop’ in India, the development of the sector has not kept pace with best sourcing practices from a quality perspective as well as value to the farmer. Promethean is a great opportunity for Acumen to learn from efficient energy use to improve the livelihoods of farmers,” says Mahesh Yagnaraman, Acumen’s India Country Director.
Promethean’s cost-effective solution makes it financially possible for large dairy companies like Hatsun and Heritage Foods to run local milk collection centers with the purchase of Promethean chillers. These centers eliminate the need for aggregators and have more accurate milk pricing machines—factors that together increase farmers’ incomes by up to 20 percent. Promethean has reached over 60,000 farmers across six states in India to date.
And they are just getting started. Acumen’s investment will be used to fund Promethean’s new business line providing dairy companies with technical support and data analytics along with the rental of a chiller unit—an offering allowing Promethean to reach and impact more low-income farmers. “Our core technology can be customized to serve diverse refrigeration needs. The investment from Acumen will support R&D and commercialization of some exciting new products and offerings in our pipeline.” said Jofi Joseph, Promethean’s VP of Sales and Operations.
“We are excited to partner with Acumen to accelerate the adoption of our decentralized energy-efficient cold chain solutions from first mile to last mile. As demand for safe, high-quality and convenient food products increase, our innovative cooling solutions will ensure quality, reduce food loss and redefine cold chain from farm to fork.” said Jiten Ghelani, CEO of Promethean Power Systems.
Promethean is Acumen’s sixth investment as part of our Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII).