The Ministry of Consumer Affairs(MoCA) announces to develop, 'Technlogies for Primary Processing, Storage and Valorizationof Onions' via 'Grand Challenge on Onion Storage'.

1. Background

Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs has the objective of providing quality Agri-produce and products there off to the consumers at large at affordable price. One of such critical commodities is Onion whose price fluctuates significantly due to several reasons. Onion production in India is around 26.91 million MT from an area of 16.28 million hectares as per the recent data (2020-2021). On average, India consumes an estimated 13 lakh tonnes of onion every month, and to meet this demand, the crop is grown in three seasons - Kharif (planted between July-August and harvested in October December); late Kharif (planted between October-November and harvested in January March); and Rabi (planted between December-January and harvested in March-May). So, the Rabi onion crop is the mainstay of India. Normally, the price of the onion is lower during these months due to greater supply. It is critical for India to successfully store rabi onions to maintain its market supply during lean months. Additionally, scientific management of onion production in all three seasons is also essential in augmenting regular supply. If the area coverage of the Rabi crop is smaller due to non-availability or limited availability of irrigation water or if the crop is damaged due to hailstorms and pre-monsoon rains, production will be lower, consequently, the prices rise.

Region-wise area, production and productivity of onions in India

Due to improper storage systems, annual losses amount to about Rs 11000 Cr. It is prudent to invest a decent amount in the development of Technological solutions to the problems plaguing the Onion sector and dividends will be attractive. Although the traditional method of making onion husks saves money, the loss of storage is huge and these huts are not economically viable. Therefore, Kandachal Yojana is being implemented in the state under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana through Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board with a view to encourage the farmers to set up scientific onion huts to minimize the losses due to storage.

Recent technological advancements (such as Design, Solar/Plasma/Irradiation energy, Nanotechnology, IoT including AU/ML) also offer an opportunity to provide infrastructure for onion storage and supply chain besides value addition even in rural India. Design innovations are pervading various sectors including efficient onion storage at farm level, rural as well as urban markets. Different process and product development advances will fetch better returns to Farmers and competitive prices for consumers. More importantly, it will help in addressing the present as well as impending challenges.

Health Effect of Onion

2. Aim

To conduct this grand challenge which brings innovative, modular, and cost-effective solutions to develop “Technologies for Primary Processing, Storage and Valorization of Onions” and to be set up at the farm / rural / urban levels. These technologies would provide comprehensive strategic solutions for reducing the losses while imparting value addition

3. Grand Challenge Problem Statement

The Onion storage grand challenge invites a proposal for developing ‘Technologies for Primary Processing, Storage and Valorization of Onions’.

However, to kickstart this Grand Challenge Initiative right away a call for proposals to improve the Kanda Chawl Storage based on modern engineering design principles with better ventilation to optimize the storage conditions.

The proposed comprehensive solution for the mega issue should focus on the following:
Vertical 1: Improvement in the design of Kandha Chawls created by farmers.
Vertical 2: Pre-harvesting stage

Preharvest care such as field heat removal, curing, preliminary storage adopting traditional methods (letting them in soil, hanging them along with shoots, etc.).

Vertical 3: Primary Processing stage

Primary processing like sun drying, cost-efficient solar dryers (to reduce the moisture content), cold plasma treatment (to reduce the microbial load like black fungus), Gamma-irradiation, Cold plasma treatment, Ethylene oxide treatment etc.

Vertical 4: Storage Phase

The temperature should be in the range of 20-27°C with minimum sprouting, least weight loss and no spoilage. At the farmer level, if the centralized system is not created then the capacities should be 20-200 tons per structure and for larger capacity range should be 1000-20000 tons.

  • Storage with controlled conditions of relative humidity (should range from 75-80%), sunlight, and air draft for ventilation and temperature (cool, ambient)
  • Sorting, Chilling (whole and cut onions) by IQF, Blast freezing, etc.
  • Controlled atmospheric storage using membrane technology, Adsorption, Greenhouse storage etc.
Vertical 5: Valorization Process

  • Valorization by different unit operations such as Dehydration white onions, both whole, and slices or cut onions (cottage, small and large scale dryers) while retaining the color:
  • Frying (normal and vacuum) while retaining the color;
  • Pickling
Vertical 6: Final Stage

  • Extraction of Onion Essential oil, Oleoresin,
  • Dehydrated powder (drying and size reduction, cryogrinding),
  • Gravy/paste for RTE and RTC products in retortable Flexi pouches

4. Eligibility Criteria:

  • The following participants (college students, research scholars, faculties, and industry individuals) can apply.
  • Team Leader of the participating team must be Indian citizen.
  • The above-mentioned participating teams are not mandatorily required to be registered with Indian Companies/startups / MSMEs LLPs to apply for the challenge. However, the teams shortlisted at Ideation Stage will be required to apply for regitration as Indian Startups/ Company/ MSMEs/ LLPs and submit the proof of having applied at the stage of submission of Prototype. It will be expected that by the time of selection at the final stage, necessary registration will be completed.
  • The Indian Tech start-ups, MSMEs, Companies, LLPs registered in India under the company Act can apply. The entity must have 51% or more shareholding with Indian citizens or persons of Indian origin. The applicant’s entity should not be a subsidiary company of any foreign corporation.

It may be noted that funds will be transferred only in the bank accounts of Startups/companies / MSMEs / LLPs and not in the bank accounts of individuals.

5. Implementing Agency

MoCA would be the implementing agency of the grand challenge and would also provide technical support. Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell (MIC) and AICTE would be acting as Knowledge partners. DoCA would be the user agent of the Grand Challenge. Also, DoCA would provide locations and financial support for sourcing and installation of Storage structural solutions/product production centers/demo plants, deployment of technologies as well as logistics, travel, and other contingency expenses.

6. Evaluation Methodology:

Blind Review: An expert panel from Academia, Government, and Industry will evaluate the proposals and will shortlist approximate 30-50 proposals.

Stage–1 (Ideation to Prototype Stage): Shortlisted teams will be asked to make a presentation to Jury*. Based on the recommendations of Jury*, 50 proposals on verticals will be shortlisted. The financial support of Rs. 5 Lakh each to develop a proof of concept (PoC) and/or a working prototype of the proposed solution within 3 months duration (max) would be provided. In this stage, a workable process is to be explained to show the PoC or to design and develop a prototype to demonstrate to the Jury members consisting of experts from Academia, user agency (DoCA), MoCA, Industry, etc .

Stage – 2 (Prototype to Product Stage): This is the critical phase of the Grand Challenge to build upon the idea and mature the prototype. The teams would present their prototypes to Jury. Best Thirty (5+25) techno-economically viable prototypes and processes shall be selected for product/Process development and each team will receive Rs 10-50 Lakh to build their solution as per the need of the user agency within six-twelve months duration (max) and subsequently field trial, testing & deployment, and demonstration at approx. 25 locations across the country as identified by user agency in next two months. These fifteen teams shall be provided with additional financial support, if necessary, for handholding by the Dept of Consumer Affairs, MoCA, MIC & AICTE (knowledge partner) and the implementing agency (DoCA) for testing, deployment, and demonstration at the live site.

For these field trials, each finalist will be provided the following financial support:

  • For sourcing and installation of devices/solutions deployment
  • An amount of Rs 10,00,000 will be allocated for logistics, travel, and other contingency expenses. The cost of sourcing and deployment of devices and solutions will be estimated by the implementing agency based on the business plan submitted by the applicants, in which such costs have to be mentioned explicitly.

Stage – 3 (Product Deployment Stage): The fifteen (3+12) selected teams of Stage-2 will get a chance of a lifetime to deploy a fully functioning product/process at a location earmarked by the user agency. The products/processes will be presented to Jury and user agency. The solutions would be evaluated based on parameters that will include Innovation, Replicability, Scalability, Usability, Price of the product, Ease of deployment/roll-out, Potential risks involved in the implementation of the solution etc. Based on the evaluation, one winner in each category and two/four runner-ups will be selected and supported by 25 Lakh (winner) and 10 Lakh each (runner-ups).

All teams including the winning team shall be free to market the product to any entity outside the user agency with consent of user agency, if required.

7. Evaluation Parameters and quantifiable matrix to be adopted by the implanting agency

The ideas/ process/prototype/ final product/process will be judged on the following parameters
Serial No. Parameter Description
1 Approach Towards Problem Solving Product Idea, Degree of Innovation, Simplicity of Final Solution, Uniqueness & scalability of Idea, Novelty of Approach,
2 Business Use Case Business Case, USP, and Vision
3 Solution Technical Feasibility Product features, Scalability, Interoperability, enhancement & expansion, Underlying technology components & stack and futuristic orientation
4 Product/Process Roadmap Potential Cost to Build Product, Go to Market Strategy, Time to Market
5 Team Ability & Culture Team Leader’s Effectiveness (i.e. Ability to guide, Ability to present idea), Ability to Market Product, Growth Potential of Organization
6 Addressable Market Natural Sales Appeal, Affordability, ROI, Sales Distribution Channel
7 Price Discovery Cost of components/equipment/energy source

The weightage of each parameter is elaborated in ICTGC scheme document. The implementing agency has to adopt the same weightage criteria.

8. Incubation and Marketing support by MoCA

a) The successful developers may be given an opportunity to join the MoCA/Govt. supported incubator / CoEs for further nurturing of their solution. This will be facilitated by a challenge implementing agency.

b) The technologies that were developed & demonstrated successfully and approved by the Competent Authority may be listed in GeM.

c) MoCA may facilitate in the deployment of successfully developed solutions in other emerging geographies.

9. Duration of ICTGC:

Total duration of the challenge would be 18-24 months (ideation, prototype and product stage)