Indian farmers drawn to sustainable cooling techniques
A collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Indian institutions is delivering results on the ground to find energy efficient solutions to tackle food waste.
UK experts are working with Indian farmers to find sustainable solutions to tackle food loss and wastage.
The project is in partnership with the British High Commission in India, the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) and is led by experts from the Centre for Sustainable Cooling.
The Indian state government plans to set up a series of Integrated Pack Houses, aggregating and linking clusters of smallholder farmers to markets by refrigerated transport links.
British experts recently arrived in India to cover the cities of Delhi, Haryana and Hyderabad on an information-gathering mission to work out the most effective ways of helping farmers increase their economic well-being through sustainable solutions to tackle food loss and wastage. Led by experts from the newly-formed Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham, the UK team is exploring ways of making the most of improved crop post-harvest management and clean, sustainable chilled distribution systems.
Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, explains: “Food loss is a major challenge with up to 40 per cent of some produce grown lost between farm and market. Focusing on how food can be saved in the supply chain is as important as food produced. “We are bringing together UK and Indian partners to create template projects showcasing sustainable technology and expertise that could help farmers in India maximise their income by reducing waste, maintaining product quality and connecting to more distant markets. The challenge is to achieve this sustainably using renewable energy solutions.”
In partnership with the British High Commission in India and the agri-tech sector team at the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT), British experts are also developing a plan for a UK-India collaboration for a first-of-a-kind “Centre of Excellence” in Haryana to support the roll-out of sustainable post-harvest management and cooling at scale in India. The UK team, which also includes academics from Cranfield University, London South Bank University, University of Greenwich and NIAB East Malling Research as well as industry experts, will use the information gathered in India to form the basis of an industry workshop in April at the University of Birmingham, to consider opportunities for industry engagement in this fast-growing market opportunity.
Not a luxury
According to Prof. Peters, who is one of the leads of the project, access to cooling is not a luxury. It is about fresh food, safe medicines and protection from heat for populations in a warming world. It is vital for economic productivity as it allows workers, farmers and students to function effectively in comfortable environments. “If we are to deliver access to cooling for all who need it, we will potentially see four times as many appliances deployed using five times as much energy as today. How we meet this challenge and provide cooling for all will have important ramifications not only for our climate, but also for our broader aspirations for a sustainable future,” he said.
Around half of India's employment depends on agriculture, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stated vision of doubling farmers′ income highlights the importance of agri-logistics in achieving such a farm income strategy. Indian state governments plan to set up a series of Integrated Pack Houses, aggregating and linking clusters of smallholder farmers to markets by refrigerated transport links that use energy-efficient and sustainable technologies - reducing food loss and decreasing the amount of wasted produce, the university notes.
The government of India is keen to develop projects, including joint collaborative research that can demonstrate innovative, sustainable technologies for Pack House Management and cold-chain solutions. The Haryana government, for example, is planning to create more than 350 Pack Houses in the state whilst the Indian government is targeting 22,000 new agri-processing and logistics hubs.
The University of Birmingham said that its new Centre for Sustainable Cooling (CSC) will work closely with governments, international development agencies, NGOs and industry to deliver access to sustainable cooling for all, including India. The CSC aims to transform clean cold research into affordable technology by working with global partners to create in-market proving grounds that allow emerging technology to be tested and attract investments.
Nadia Hatink is a UK-based columnist with a focus on South Asian affairs.