‘Liquid air could be crucial in curbing food waste in India’

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2014 00:53 IST

Billions of rupees worth of fruit and vegetable waste in India could be better conserved if the country had a sustainable cold chain of refrigerated warehousing and transport, according to a new study by experts at the University of Birmingham.

The study, titled ‘The prospects for liquid air cold chains in India’, is to be presented to industry experts at the automobile research association of India, Pune, on Tuesday.

The report says that besides agriculture, cold chains could benefit India’s position as the world’s third largest pharmaceutical producer. Currently, it is estimated almost 20% of temperature sensitive health-care products arrive damaged or degraded because of a broken cold chain, including 25% of vaccines.

A university release said that India’s current cold chain capacity is tiny compared to potential demand. Less than 4% of the country’s fresh produce is transported by cold chain, compared to over 90% in the UK.
However, the study suggested that the Indian refrigerated vehicle fleet may need to grow almost 100-fold by 2025.

In light of this, the report emphasises that conventional cold chain technologies could have serious environmental consequences. One solution to this is to use the vast amounts of cold lost to the environment, especially during the re-gasification of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Liquid nitrogen, which can be used in the same way as liquid air, is already widely available in India and the current production capacity would be enough to cool around 17,000 vehicles, twice the size of India’s current refrigerated truck fleet.

Toby Peters, visiting Professor in power and cold economy, who will present the study in Pune, said, “Air quality in urban areas across India is an important issue. Therefore it is crucial that a sustainable approach is taken to meet this demand for cooling to leapfrog the mistakes made elsewhere, where cold chains rely on highly polluting fossil fuels.”

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