Depending upon the type of crop, cold chain facilities have been shown to save up to 40% of the harvest. The United Kingdom’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which has over 2,000 members in India and is focusing on the country for growth and research, released a report, titled ‘A Tank of Cold: Cleantech Leapfrog to a More Food-secure World’.
It highlighted that the lack of proper handling, coupled with an inadequate cold and frozen supply chain (or cold chain), leads to the loss of as much as half the perishable food produced in India each year.
According to the key findings from the report, only 10–11% of the fruit and vegetables produced in India use cold storage. Storage capacity needs to increase 40% to avoid wastage. There is more fruit and vegetable waste in the southern and western regions of India due to the tropical and humid climate.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is called for urgent action to encourage the roll out of sustainable cold chain in India, in order to prevent unnecessary food loss, help alleviate hunger and improve global food security.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of energy and environment, Institution of Mechanical Engineers said, “We currently produce enough food, but the tragedy is that too much of it is lost unnecessarily through spoilage in developing countries, where it is most needed, due to inadequate infrastructure and in particular a lack of cold and frozen supply chains. Investment in cold chain infrastructure driven by renewable energy is the key to preventing these losses, alleviating world hunger, improving health through better nutrition and air quality.
“The Indian government, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGO) involved in development initiatives and retailers establishing supply chains, need to prioritise investment into affordable, reliable and sustainable cold chain infrastructure. This includes combining renewable energy with innovative technologies for producing both power and cooling, such as for example cryogenic energy storage using liquid air or nitrogen,” he added.
India’s investment in cold chain is forecast to be $15 billion over the next 5 years, and in order to ensure this investment is sustainable and cost-effective in the long- as well as short-term. It must focus on powering these cold chains using renewable energy sources. Renewable energy resources are available in abundance in India, and the key to unlocking sustainable cold chains is to develop technology that can either use these directly, such as cooling through solar-driven absorption, or to power existing or new technologies through electricity generation. The Indian electricity grid is extremely inefficient, and loses 30% of its power during transmission on an average, compared to about 6% in the United Kingdom.