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Reducing food waste with sustainable cooling solution

University of Birmingham clean cold experts are working with the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) and Indian counterparts to explore solutions to help Indian farming communities

The collaboration aims to focus on how integrated ‘Community Cooling Hubs’ can help farming communities in India to reduce food waste, increase income and meet rural communities’ cooling needs in an affordable and sustainable way.

Launching the project on World Refrigeration Day (26 June 2019) with a workshop in New Delhi, sustainable cooling experts will begin developing ways of integrating food cold chains with other cold-dependent services such as community health facilities, social facilities such as creches and emergency services.

Effective refrigeration is essential to manage food and medicine distribution. It underpins industries and economic growth, while room cooling is important to sustainable urbanisation and human productivity and makes much of the world bearable and safe to live in.

Researchers from the Birmingham Energy Institute, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in India are supported by the Shakti Foundation and will join efforts with NCCD in this new project.

Representatives from government, farming communities, NCCD and agri-business will take part in the one-day event to kick off the programme to deliberate on the concept of Community Cooling Hubs. A second event is being held in Pune to engage with the farmer and civil society organisations.

Experts believe that creating Cooling Hubs, using appropriate technology and business models, will help to remove barriers that stop subsistence farmers from using temperature-controlled logistics. These Hubs can also be deployed to provide the local Community access to other refrigeration dependant services.

Toby Peters, professor in Clean Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, commented, “In India, up to 40 per cent of food is lost post-harvest because of lack of cold chain. We can’t address malnutrition and rural poverty without cold chains extending crop life and connecting farmers to markets.”

“We’re proposing a radical approach to cooling provision, where cold chains meet the wider community’s cooling needs in a clean, affordable and sustainable way. By aggregating demand to optimise system efficient energy and resource management and bundle multiple revenues streams, we can create a cohesive approach focused on the full range of society’s needs,” Peters added.

“Cooling hubs could support farmers, whilst ensuring that communities have continuing access to life-saving medicines and properly cooled health facilities and community services.”

This project is expected to explore how temperature-controlled food pack-houses could innovate to hybridise and employ technologies to meet other community-based cold needs.

The cooling system could be used to cool a community hall to serve as a crèche for infants or elderly, providing a schoolroom for classes on the hottest days of the year. Vaccines and medicines could be safely stored at these hubs for local health care services.