The Overview of our Indian Dairy Project
Updated: Jun 23
Lighting For Learning is in the midst of initiating a solar-powered milk refrigeration project in Jharkhand, India. This project aims to increase the quality and quantity of milk produced by Dairy farmers. Based on our earlier article, "Holy Cow! We Need Solar Refrigeration Now!" there are two broad systems in place for dairy products to reach the consumers.
The first system is an informal arrangement between dairy farmers and shopkeepers where dairy farmers sell their milk either to shops or sell it door-to-door around their town or village.
The second system, and the one we will be focusing on, is a community collection centre system, where farmers sell their milk at community centres.
How does the Milk Community Collection Centre System Work?
The process begins early in the morning with Farmers typically waking up around 6 AM to start milking their cows. They have to wake up early because they need to reach the community centres, which can be quite a distance away, before 8 AM. At 8 AM, the milk collection stops and the deposited milk is loaded up on trucks that travel to a district centre.
Farmers receive payment for the milk they deposit, and the rate that they are paid is dependent on two qualities - the number of solids and fat composition of the milk. These qualities are tested at the community centre itself, where a sample is taken from the farmer's deposited milk.
This is a video depicting how the deposited milk is collected and then tested:
Below is an image of the test results which determine the rate farmers receive:
As a general rule, the higher the solid and fat composition, the better the rate that farmers are given. These farmers receive a slip from the community centres which then they can cash in.
The milk that is collected at the community centres is then transported to the large district centres which have ample storage and cooling capacities. Big Dairy corporations like SUDHA then buy the milk from the district centres to make various dairy products that include milk and paneer.
To summarize, this is an overview of the process in three stages,
Stage 1: Farmers sell milk to community centres
Stage 2: Community centres transport milk to local milk chiller and then to large district centres/Communicty centres transport to large district centres
Stage 3: Dairy Corporations purchase milk from district centres
We are looking to improve the process in stage 1, particularly.
Our Project: Creating New Solar Refrigeration Deposit Points around Farming Clusters
We believe that the current process at stage 1 limits both the total amount of milk that can be collected and the quality of milk collected. Fresh milk that is milked from a cow is at 36.7 degrees Celsius and needs to be cooled quickly and kept cool to preserve the quality of milk. The current set-up in Jarkhand lacks cooling systems to keep the milk cool early on in the process.
Furthermore, some farmers are located far away from these community centres and lack the incentive to sell their milk to community centres, which generally yields better rates than selling milk to local shops and the door-to-door sale of milk. One other problem that surfaces from the current process is that it fails to account for the second milking of cows. Cows have to be milked at least twice a day because if they are not milked, their udders become full and they feel uncomfortable, which in turn affects the quality of milk produced. Hence, even farmers that sell their morning milking to the community centres sell their second and sometimes third milking for a significantly lower price to either shops or neighbours later on in the day.
This is where we come in with our proposed solution: to set up solar-refrigerated collection points around farming clusters. We believe that by creating more points around farming clusters, we can help eliminate the issue of farmers being unable to access community centres that are too far away. Our proposed process will operate similar to the second and third stages of the community centre system with the only difference being that trucks from the large district centre would travel to these new solar-refrigerated cluster points instead of the community centres.
Besides the installation of solar-refrigeration units to these points, our plan also involves the incorporation of a new payment system where farmers will instantly be notified via SMS of the mount that they have deposited and the payment they will receive. This system is already in place in Kenya, and we are looking to adopt and tweak it because unlike Kenya, the rate received by farmers in India is based on the composition of solids.
Our plan would effectively eliminate these community centres from the value chain but the solar-refrigeration points would help address the three pain points I have highlighted.
1. Farmers can increase profits by depositing their second milking of the day and selling them together with their subsequent first milking. Unlike community centres that do not accept milk from farmers after 8 AM, these solar refrigeration points will be active throughout the day so that farmers can deposit their second-milking. In this way, farmers can earn more because they can deposit more milk to gain more revenue.
2. Farmers have a more accessible point. Besides helping existing farmers who use this system to save costs on fuel and transportation, other farmers can access these points and receive better rates from selling their milk.
3. Improving the quality of milk. Fresh milk needs to be cooled down relatively quickly, and these points help preserve the quality of milk. Since testing of the bacteria count of milk does not happen until much later in the value chain, initial cooling becomes paramount so that the milk does not get rejected.
Meet the Team: