UK university to research solar-powered cold chains for Indian agriculture

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The International Solar Alliance (ISA) has partnered with the University of Birmingham to promote the use of solar and solar-hybrid energy powered cold chains and cooling systems among farmers in ‘sun-rich’ countries.

While Birmingham is the research partner on ISA’s Solar Cooling Initiative (I-SCI) for agriculture use, India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) will provide domain expertise and knowledge support to the project.

The two organisations will explore opportunities to drive forward ISA’s agenda to research, plan and deliver such technologies in ISA member countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn—such as India, Egypt and Brazil.

Launching the project, ISA director general Upendra Tripathy said: “This initiative aims to enable millions of farmers by way of integrating cold-chains that work on solar fully or partially. The focus would be on farm-to-fork supply chains—reducing wastage and increasing farmers’ income.”

“This project will align with the ISA’s first programme “Scaling Solar for Applications in the Agricultural Use.” It is noteworthy that 28 countries have joined this programme to install 270,000 solar water pumps for which ISA has launched a global aggregation and price discovery tender.”

NCCD CEO Professor Pawanexh Kohli explained: “I-SCI has brought immediate attention to how solar energy, which already powers the biological production from farms, can be used in key post-production activities. The initiative aims to address sustainability of farming as an enterprise as well as the sustainability aspects of the food delivery system. NCCD looks forward to working with ISA and the University of Birmingham to promulgate the knowledge and research to help this initiative fulfil its potential.”

Potential

In tropical countries cold chains are vital to transport perishable produce, which can otherwise suffer up to 40% loss in the journey from farm to market.

Cold-chain connectivity and reduction in food loss would ensure that the given volume of production generates more revenue and increases farmers’ economic wellbeing. However, cooling systems must be driven by sustainable technology if they are not to increase the risk of climate change.

Cooling systems are typically energy intensive. Use of solar powered technologies can add to energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact. Introducing solar-derived energy hybrids would contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from food loss and waste, which is currently estimated at 4.4 giga ton eCO2 each year.

The I-SCI project provides a rare opportunity to simultaneously address three internationally agreed goals: the Paris Climate Agreement; the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol; and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, Toby Peters said: “Cold-chains can be an essential contributor to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

“But with rapid urbanisation, this presents a big challenge. How do you create the local and global, temperature controlled “field to fork” connectivity to feed 10 billion people sustainably from hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers whose livelihoods and well-being are often dependent on only 1-2 hectares, as well as ensuring they are climate change adaptation ready and resilient .… all without using fossil fuels? Our work with the new International Solar Alliance Solar cooling initiative will set out to answer this big and urgent challenge.”