HKS Students Win Agriculture Innovation Prize for Coolify

May 6, 2014
Doug Gavel, HKS Communications

A team comprised of students from Harvard Kennedy School and MIT are preparing to take their ideas to the marketplace after winning the 2014 Agriculture Innovation Prize at the University of Wisconsin. The prize is worth $100,000 for the winning team.

Ananth Gudipati MPA 2014; Rajat Sethi MPA 2015 and MBA Sloan ’15; and Santiago Arias Duval from MIT are the innovators behind Coolify, which serves as a low-cost business solution for fruit and vegetable farmers working far from cold storage facilities in hot, humid areas.

“As much as 40 percent of harvested fruits and vegetables go to waste in India each year,” Sethi told mit.edu. “There’s not enough refrigeration. In these tropical areas, the temperature is very high and the ambient humidity is very high. The combination of these two things is really bad for harvested foods.”

Gudipati says the hope is to empower producers to increase profits and reduce food waste while at the same time allowing producers to play a more direct role in the distribution process.

"The idea was developed while trying to understand the Global Food systems in our agriculture and innovation classes," Gudipati said. "We felt that the food wastage problem tackled through a combination of technology and policy can be significantly useful to global food security. We worked on understanding the various technologies and identifying bottlenecks which can be tackled through innovations."

The team hopes to pilot the project in India this summer.

“Cold storage is not a new concept,” Sethi told mit.edu. “But this has to be modeled so that it’s convenient for [farmers] to use and so that it makes business sense.”

The competition was sponsored by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture and in partnership with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID).

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Rajat Sethi MPA 2015 and MBA Sloan ’15 and Ananth Gudipati MPA 2014

Rajat Sethi MPA 2015 (L) and Ananth Gudipati MPA 2014 (R)

"The idea was developed while trying to understand the Global Food systems in our agriculture and innovation classes," said Ananth Gudipati MPA 2014.

Winning team members pose for a picture holding the check for the Agriculture Innovation Prize award.