Promethean Power Systems

Promethean Founder Returns From India With Lessons For Entrepreneurs

By Jeff Engel | Xconomy
July 11th, 2016

Xconomy Boston — When Promethean Power Systems’ founders wrote the original business plan for their cleantech startup at MIT, they intended to sell their products in India first. But none of them had ever set foot on Indian soil.

After winning $10,000 as the runner-up in the MIT $100K pitch competition in 2007, co-founders Sorin Grama and Sam White decided it was time to visit their target market, Grama says.

“The reality was a lot different than what we had put in our business plan,” Grama (pictured above, left) says. “So different, in fact, that nobody wanted this contraption we were building”—a system that would harness the sun’s energy to produce hot water and electricity. “We realized we were just another classic case of a solution looking for a problem to solve.”

They found a problem by chance, Grama says, during a meeting in India with the managing director of a dairy business. He described the difficulty in efficiently collecting milk from farmers in small villages, and keeping it fresh.

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Heritage Foods Inaugurates New Rapid Milk Chiller near Visakhapatnam

Promethean Power Systems’ Rapid Milk Chillers will now help Heritage Foods process higher volumes of better quality milk. Heritage Foods, one of the fastest-growing public listed companies in India, which boasts a processing capacity of 1.53 million litres of milk per day, recently installed Promethean’s Rapid Milk Chiller at its Munagapaka site near Visakhapatnam on June 10, 2016.

The unit was inaugurated by Mrs. Bhuvaneswari Nara, vice-chairperson and managing director, Heritage Foods.

Within a few weeks of installing the Rapid Milk Chiller, Heritage Foods has seen a 6x increase in milk procurement. The availability of an instant chilling option to preserve the quality of milk and save it from spoilage has inspired confidence among farmers, which has helped increase procurement volume, said officials at Heritage Dairy.

Improvements are also being reported in the quality of milk processed. Mr. Divakara Rao, Zonal Head, Visakhapatnam district, said that the unit has helped them achieve a high MBRT level.

If you would like to learn more or see a demonstration of the Rapid Milk Chiller, please contact the Promethean team.

The Challenge of Hardware Startups

By Tim Binkert & Clinton Parks
May 10, 2016

Founding any new business is extremely difficult and more hard work than most people can imagine. Founding a new technology-based business is arguably tougher than that, and founding a tech hardware (rather than software) venture even tougher than that. But perhaps the toughest of all is developing and scaling a technology-based hardware venture in remote areas with scarce resources for the benefit people living in extreme poverty.

A new report from FSG, Hardware Pioneers: Harnessing the Impact Potential of Technology Entrepreneurs, funded by The Lemelson Foundation, investigates the obstacles specific to these hardware pioneers–people working on toilets, lighting, clean water and other innovations that if brought to scale could have major impact on the health, lifespan, and productivity of the world’s poor.

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Promethean Power Systems and Fonterra Partner to Boost Milk Quality in Sri Lanka

Somerville, Mass. and Colombo, Sri Lanka – May 2, 2016 – Promethean Power Systems and Fonterra, the dairy co-operative behind Anchor milk brand, have partnered to introduce a new rapid milk chilling technology that will drastically improve the quality of Sri Lankan milk.

In just a matter of seconds, Promethean Power Systems’ rapid chillers chill the milk that the farmers deliver to their local collection centers. The technology – the first of its kind – uses an innovative thermal energy storage device to overcome limited and sometimes unreliable electricity supply in rural areas.

The milk chiller is being piloted at Fonterra’s milk collection center in Doluwa, with plans to roll out the technology across Fonterra’s milk collection network across Sri Lanka.

Mr. Saman Perera, Fonterra’s Dairy Development Programme Manager, said: “Fonterra is committed to working with Sri Lankan dairy farmers to improve milk quality and increase local supply; however, Sri Lanka’s hot climate and low milk density means that getting milk quickly to the right temperature can be a challenge.”

“An important part of our efforts to improve milk quality is using refrigeration systems that can chill milk in a cost-effective and safe way closer to the rural dairy farmers who supply it. This helps to reduce milk waste in the supply chain, and creates more value for our farmers,” said Mr. Perera.

Promethean Power Systems manufactures a range of milk chillers which are quickly being adopted in other countries, such as India, because of their ability to chill the milk rapidly to four degrees Celsius using limited grid power. Promethean’s innovation is centered on a thermal battery designed specifically for refrigeration applications in rural areas. “The thermal battery serves a dual purpose: it provides backup for the unreliable grid and it releases thermal energy to rapidly chill the milk and preserve its quality”, said Mr. Sorin Grama, Promethean’s co-founder and principal inventor of the technology.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, conducted a search for global technologies suitable for village-level cooling in the dairy sector. It found that Promethean Power

Systems’ milk chilling technology could provide a viable solution. This research led to the Fonterra-Promethean partnership to install the first rapid milk chiller of its kind in Sri Lanka.

“Introducing cooling systems at the village level can both improve the quality of milk and increase the quantity of available milk,” said Amena Arif, IFC’s Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives. “This partnership will improve the livelihoods of thousands of dairy farmers, and increase the availability of fresh milk in Sri Lanka.”

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The rot stops here

RASHMI PRATAP | The Hindu BusinessLine
April 8, 2016

The country annually wastes about 40 per cent of its fruit and vegetable produce, valued at $8 billion. A handful of start-ups want to plug this loss with innovative cold-storage solutions

Miles away in Pune, Marc Cremer and his workers at GreenTokri farms pack fresh lettuce leaves every morning for distribution to customers across the city. Cremer has invested in a cold storage machine, where lettuce from his farm goes directly after harvesting and is instantly cooled to 3°C before being packed into thermocol boxes with Cryo-Gel. So the salads arrive farm-fresh at the retail outlets at 3pm. The cold storage at GreenTokri greatly reduces wastage, an evil that plagues most of India’s farming sector.

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44th DIC - How Technological Innovation can Transform India’s Milk Collection

India’s 1.22-billion-strong population is showing a growing demand for high-quality dairy products. UHT milk, gourmet cheeses, probiotic and nutritional drinks, and flavored milk are now commanding more retail shelf space. One might think that for a country that produces the highest amount of milk on earth, responding to this trend would be easy. But that is not quite the case.

Although India boasts nearly 146.3 million tonnes of annual milk production, according to the Indian government’s Economic Survey 2015-16, its dairy industry loses a substantial amount of milk every year to an underdeveloped refrigeration chain. The lack of timely refrigeration also means that the quality of milk is often compromised. This is arguably the most concerning factor for Indian dairy processors and farmers at the collection level.

Combined Problem of Lack of Refrigeration and Unreliable Power Supply
The Promethean Power Systems team believes that the challenges in the dairy supply chain can be addressed by implementing innovative refrigeration technology to reduce spoilage and improve milk quality.
This was the central theme of Sorin Grama’s presentation at the Indian Dairy Association’s 44th Dairy Industry Conference in Karnal recently. Grama, co-founder, Promethean Power Systems, spoke on Using Technology and Innovation to Transform India’s Milk Collection Networks, highlighting these points:

  • The Indian dairy industry faces significant challenges including poor milk quality, high transportation costs, high operating cost, and fragmented milk supply.
  • Underpinning that is the lack of timely refrigeration, which often stems from unreliable power supply.
  • A diesel generator for power backup is the current option for village-level chilling. But this solution is expensive, needs recurring maintenance, and is less eco-friendly.

Part of the problem that is restricting village-level milk collection is the complexities associated with the hub-and-spoke model of milk collection. Grama noted that a wider milk collection radius means lower milk quality and higher operating costs. But distributed chilling coupled with diesel-free power backup can help solve this problem.

Promethean Power Systems at the 44th Dairy Industry Conference in Karnal

Transforming Milk Collection with Innovative Chilling Closer to Dairy Farms
Promethean’s patented thermal-energy-storage-based chilling systems from 500-2000L capacity can serve up to 60-70 dairy farmers in villages, giving them the confidence to deliver more milk to their nearest milk collection center. The thermal storage system stores grid energy when it is available, and releases that stored energy to chill milk when the need arises.
With thermal energy storage being a more cost-effective replacement for diesel-generator backup, collection centers and dairy processors are assured of better quality and volumes of milk as well as lower opex. This, in turn, creates greater value for the Indian consumer.
The points that Grama discussed tie in with what T Nanda Kumar, former chairman, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) said in his keynote speech at the DIC. “The structure of milk production is likely to change. Our milk producers will increasingly adopt new technologies in milk production. Alternatively, small-farmer-friendly machines may come into play… even within the smallholder production systems, improvisation through adoption of modern technology will become prominent,” Mr. Kumar said.

Transforming the way milk is stored

Anmar Frangoul | Special to

As the global population increases, the issue of food waste is becoming increasingly pressing.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 30 to 40 percent of the world's food production does not even make it to market, with roughly 1.3 billion tons of food – valued at more than $1 trillion – either wasted or lost.

In some parts of the world, the consequences of such wastage can be stark. A 2014 report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers states a lack of proper storage results in the loss of "up to 50 percent of fruit and vegetables" in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, while 25 percent of milk produced during Tanzania's wet season is also wasted.

An MIT start-up has developed technology that is dramatically improving the way milk can be stored in Indian communities where access to electricity is difficult and reliable refrigeration is limited.

"Most Indian villages have grid power, they have electricity," Sorin Grama, co-founder and CTO of Promethean Power Systems, told CNBC in a phone interview. "They're not completely off grid, they just don't have power 24 hours a day, they don't have it when they need it," he added.

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MIT Spinout’s Milk Chillers Reduce Spoilage and Boost Yields in Villages

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office
September 7, 2015

India is the world’s leading milk producer, with many of its people relying on milk as a primary source of income. Indian dairies buy milk from local farmers at village collection centers, and then sell the milk or use it to make dairy products.

But with rural India’s limited electric grid, often available for only several hours daily, keeping milk fresh — it must be refrigerated within a few hours of milking — becomes very difficult. Many dairies use expensive diesel generators for refrigeration, or risk high percentages of spoiled product: Of the roughly 130 million tons of milk produced by India each year, millions of tons go to waste or reach the market as low-quality dairy products that pose safety threats. All this also reduces the income of Indian farmers

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A Better Way to Keep Milk Fresh

Richard Martin | MIT Technology Review
July 21, 2015


Sometime this week a large milk refrigerator will arrive in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Since Bangladesh produces nearly four million tons of milk per year, that hardly seems remarkable; but this is a special kind of refrigerator.

Made by Promethean Power Systems, a company based in Pune, India, and Boston, the system keeps milk chilled with a thermal battery that stores energy and releases it, as cooling power, over the course of a day. Like India, Bangladesh has an outdated power grid that supplies electricity sporadically—often as little as a few hours per day. Rural dairy farmers on the subcontinent bring their milk to village collection centers that typically rely on diesel generators, a costly, dirty way of providing electricity.

Two Americans, Sam White and Sorin Grama, founded Promethean Power in 2007 to address a simple but widespread and pressing problem: how to keep milk cold without burning diesel fuel. They’ve been selling refrigerators in India for two years; this week marks their first export to neighboring Bangladesh.

“We’ve been at this for eight years,” says White, and “we’ve gone through all sorts of different technologies, attempts, and failures to figure out a solution.”

At first, he says, they were determined to craft a technology that relied on solar power—a noble attempt that ultimately failed because solar power, like grid power in India and Bangladesh, is by its nature intermittent, and refrigerators need constant power. Eventually they settled on a thermal energy storage system that uses a phase-change material to store energy in the form of ice. When the grid is operating, a portion of the material freezes, and the battery circulates that thermal energy into a heat exchanger to keep milk chilled over the course of the day. The thermal battery can store up to 28 kilowatt-hours of energy.

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Thermal Power Storage Saves Indian Dairy Farmers From an Unpredictable Grid

by Mike Stone | Greentech Media
July 13, 2015

India is the world’s No. 1 milk producer. Unfortunately, rural India is not well served by the electrical grid -- creating problems for milk producers who need to keep their product cool.

In much of India, milk is brought by farmers to small, village-based collection centers. If the milk spoils before being collected from the center by the dairy, the farmer won’t get paid. What’s more, if a farmer misses that day’s pickup from the dairy, the product is unlikely to remain fresh without reliable refrigeration.

The milk industry needs reliable refrigeration, but that’s not easy with a highly unpredictable electrical grid.

The collection centers have a choice: risk spoiled product or invest in a diesel generator for when the grid fails. The second option is not only bad news for the environment -- it also considerably inflates the operating cost of refrigeration.

Promethean Power Systems has come up with a solution to the problem. The company is manufacturing milk-chilling units connected to a patent-pending thermal battery that uses a phase-change material to store 28 kilowatt-hours of energy in the form of ice.

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Thermal Energy Storage in India

Increased orders from Indian dairies validate commercial necessity for refrigeration purposes

Somerville, Mass. and Pune, India – July 6, 2015 – Millions of small farmers combine to help India produce more milk than any country on the planet, yet much of that spoils before ever reaching market. To mitigate the risk of wasted milk and food safety concerns, Promethean Power Systems, a manufacturer of thermal energy storage systems for refrigeration applications, has installed more than 2.5 MWh of distributed thermal energy storage in rural India with its latest village-level chilling system.

Many rural areas live with an electrical grid that is not available 24 hours a day, making milk refrigeration a rarity. In these conditions, refrigeration equipment requires a backup diesel generator, doubling the capital cost and tripling the operating cost. Due to the lack of proper refrigeration, a majority of India’s milk spoils or finds its way into consumer products at such low quality that it becomes a food safety threat.

Promethean Power Systems solved this problem by developing an inexpensive and reliable thermal battery for providing grid backup. Promethean Power Systems’ thermal battery stores thermal energy in the few hours when the grid is available and releases the energy when needed to provide cooling power.

“We recently received a new, large order from one of India’s largest dairies that happens to be an existing customer. Repeat orders are important to us because it proves that our systems meet our customer’s needs and demonstrates market adoption,” said Sorin Grama, Promethean Power Systems’ co-founder and principal inventor of Promethean’s thermal battery. “We continue to receive new orders from additional dairies which is always encouraging, demonstrating the impact we’re making throughout the country.”

Promethean Power Systems manufactures a complete line of rural milk refrigeration systems based around its patent-pending thermal battery. The thermal battery was developed with funds from the National Science Foundation, The Lemelson Foundation and a number of individual and institutional investors. The Indian dairy industry is the first commercial application of the technology.

To learn more about Promethean Power Systems, please visit

About Promethean Power Systems Promethean Power Systems is a privately-held technology company that develops and manufactures complete refrigeration systems for agricultural cold-chain in developing countries. The company is headquartered in Somerville, MA at Greentown Labs, the country’s largest cleantech incubator, and manufactures the technology in Pune, India. For more information visit or connect with Promethean Power Systems on Twitter.

Media Contact
Name: Sam White
Company: Promethean Power Systems
Phone: +1 (617) 512 8811

Keeps Milk Cold When the Power Cuts Out

In rural Indian dairy villages, access to electricity is intermittent. Most people have to boil milk before they drink it, and dairy farmers face the perpetual risk of losing large batches of their product. Now Promethean Power’s new thermal battery tech offers a fascinating solution.

As Doc North explains in the video, milk can be chilled to maintain its quality without electricity, by using simple principles of heat exchange.
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How technology can prevent food waste

Up to 40% of food produced in the developing world is wasted before it reaches the market, according to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). With the number of middle-class consumers predicted to rise to three billion by 2030, and the majority of that growth in developing countries, tackling this problem is no small feat – particularly as rising affluence in urban areas is likely to trigger a higher demand for richer diets and more complex food supply chains.

Lack of access to cold chain technology and reliable energy sources are the major reasons for crops perishing after harvest, research by Nottingham University shows (pdf). The cost of delivering energy to remote, rural regions means that, even when storage facilities are built, they may nevertheless stand empty. Poor transport infrastructure causes further losses, and a lack of education on post-harvest practices often results in poor quality control and food being damaged during handling.

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