A team of MIT and Harvard University students won the first-ever MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize on Thursday night for an idea to make India’s temperature-controlled supply chain for food — or “cold chain” — more affordable.
The team, GoMango, is developing smart, modular, refrigerated shipping boxes that can be rented out individually to cut costs and save billions of dollars in spoiled perishable goods in India. This innovation earned GoMango the first-place prize of $12,000 at the competition, which was organized by the student-run MIT Food and Agriculture Club to support early-stage ventures focusing on food and agriculture sustainability.
For the competition, six finalist teams pitched ideas to a panel of judges from academia and industry, and a capacity crowd, in the Samberg Conference Center. A team of MIT students, Safi Organics, earned the $8,000 second-place prize, and a team of MIT and Harvard University students, Ricult, won a $5,000 third-place prize. Other inventions included edible eating utensils, nanosensors for plants, and robotic hay compactors.
gomango is building a network of modular, intelligent refrigerated boxes to transport perishable goods using any existing truck or train. An on-demand network of low-cost refrigerated boxes will distribute the benefits of refrigerated transport widely. Reduced food waste and increased food choice will increase food access and availability, stabilize food prices, and improve nutrition.
Rentable cold chain
In GoMango’s pitch, team member and MIT alumnus Naren Tallapragada ’13, now a PhD student at Harvard University, said refrigerated trucks are rare in India, because they’re too expensive for producers and wholesalers to rent or own. By some estimates, there are as many refrigerated trucks in Boston as there are in the whole country of India.
With shipping routes sometimes spanning hundreds of miles in very hot temperatures, nearly 40 percent of India’s fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching customers, Tallapragada said: “This means hundreds of millions of people are malnourished [and] billions of dollars are wasted.”
To address the issue, GoMango invented refrigerated boxes that can be collapsed, and stored in partnering cold-storage warehouses. Food producers and wholesalers can rent exactly as many boxes as needed and stack them on traditional dry trucks, which cost roughly $100 less than refrigerated trucks.
Boxes are stuffed with packs filled with innovative phase-change materials, much like giant ice packs. They’re kept frozen until packed with food — such as fruits and vegetables and meats and fish — and liquefy throughout a trip to keep contents cool for up to three days. Each box also connects to the Internet to track location, temperature, humidity, and payment information.
SOURCE – MIT, Gomango
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