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Cold chain choices

Cold chain choices

A new study, Promoting Clean and Energy Efficient Cold-Chains in India, suggests that smartphone technology can help Indian farmers to tackle the sustainable cooling challenge[2]. Experts at the University of Birmingham, working with the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and MP Ensystems, have produced a four-point ‘roadmap’ to address the cooling needs of farmers in the Indian states of Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The authors recommend four key actions:

• Promoting new business models that involve the communities taking charge of their own cooling needs;

• Establishing ‘Living Labs’ in rural communities where new technology can be tested;

• Providing training to enable people in the food industry to use new technology; and

• Creating a new framework for delivering IT-based cold chain solutions, particularly IT-based services to manage harvesting and logistics, and selling surplus cooling capacity.

Effective refrigeration is essential to preserve food, underpinning industries and economic growth. In India up to 50% of food is lost post-harvest because of lack of cold chain. Only 4% of produce that would benefit from a cold-chain actually does so, compared with around 70% in the UK.

Using mobile apps and data analysis to manage harvesting and logistics could help to reduce the amount of food wasted between farm gate and supermarket shelf, whilst boosting farmers’ incomes and reducing the environmental impact of much-needed food cooling.

Cold chains are expected to grow rapidly in the next couple of years. Under a business-as-usual scenario, most cold chains will run on diesel and adopt carbon intensive cooling and refrigeration technologies. The study suggests that the way forward for India is to transition to cleaner and more efficient cold chains, in order to tackle climate change and to achieve wider socioeconomic benefits.

Cold-chain infrastructure and business models need to be grounded within the communities – providing them with solutions to enhance their livelihood while catering to a country’s nutritional requirements. Enhanced IoT and Blockchain techniques proposed by the research team are designed to bring substantial benefits to farmers and other cold chain operators.

With populations and urbanisation growing and climate change causing rising temperatures, the world will need to provide far more cooling. How the world meets this challenge and provides cooling services to a growing middle class and to the vulnerable poor in the coming decades will have important ramifications for the climate: without innovations and targeted interventions the energy demand for cooling could increase more than five times by 2050. Growing GHG emissions associated with cooling equipment could easily outpace efforts to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement to halt global warming.

References

2. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2019/04/indian-farmers-reduce-foodwaste.aspx

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