Food park with a technology first | india | Hindustan Times
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Food park with a technology first

A food technology park will be set up in Indore which be equipped with an accelerator-based irradiation plant, the first such technology to be introduced in the country. The operation of irradiation plants set up in Maharashtra and other parts of the country to increase the shelf life of agricultural produce is currently based on gamma rays.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 13:30 IST

A food technology park will be set up in Indore which be equipped with an accelerator-based irradiation plant, the first such technology to be introduced in the country. The operation of irradiation plants set up in Maharashtra and other parts of the country to increase the shelf life of agricultural produce is currently based on gamma rays.

The Department of Atomic Energy () has approved the setting up the accelerator-based pilot irradiation plant at Dr Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (CAT), Indore, and sanctioned Rs 12 crore for the purpose. While CAT Director Dr Vinod Sahni was not available for comment, his office has confirmed the DAE consent.

The proposed pilot plant comes in the wake of the recent Indo-US nuclear agreement where India is expected to play a more role and emerge as a global power, among others, in export and import.

The international air cargo facility to begin at Ahilyabai Holkar airport shortly will strengthen the park’s potential as an agro exporter from Indore. According to experts, accelerator-based irradiation will be the cheapest foolproof technology for food preservation that will help export of agricultural products worldwide.

Irradiation installation that costs Rs 12 crore in the international market can be accessed from Dr Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology for Rs 2 crore.

Scientifically irradiated products would clear laboratory tests of advanced countries that are reluctant to accept Indian food items for their public consumption on the ground that they contain harmful bacteria and chemical pesticide residues. Besides destroying them, irradiation will prevent germination on harvested products.

Above all, it will end farmers’ helplessness to sell their produce at throwaway prices on the fear that they would rot. Irradiation will extend shelf life of perishable goods, which normally rot in two to seven days, to one year. Former CAT director Dr D D Bhawalkar, initiated research into accelerator-based irradiation system and succeeded in developing it. But since the discovery has remained confined to the

CAT laboratories, its practical application on a mass scale remains to be assessed, specially its financial viability.
The pilot irradiation plant will, therefore, offer facilities to Indore initially but will expand once it starts getting the desired results. Apart from form food items, irradiation extends the shelf life of rubber, cable, and plastic to three times.

More importantly, the pilot irradiation plant has been placed under ambit of Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme launched by Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion of Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry under which different clusters of industries have been identified to improve their global competitiveness.

The Scheme is to be implemented through formation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will develop, operate and maintain the infrastructure facility.

Union Government will lend a one time grant-in-aid (not equity) to SPV, which will be 75 per cent of project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs 50 crore. Stakeholders that could be private, industrial, financial, premier research and development institutions will finance the remaining 25 per cent. Union and State Government (district authority) will be mandatory stakeholders.

The Centre, which has already developed the accelerator-based irradiation technology, is hosting a seminar on March 24 to hold deliberations on extending its use for agricultural, commercial and industrial purpose with an aim to foster economic development through nuclear technology.

Apart from DAE, State Government officials of the concerned ministries, farmers, social workers and entrepreneurs will attend the seminar. Indore Divisional Commissioner Ashok Das, who is playing a crucial role to ensure that plant becomes operational, will also be present at the function. Shripati Co-operative Society will make a presentation on merits of irradiation.

Aside from the pilot plant, the participants will discuss at length the SPV formation and post harvest management plan that includes formation of storage grading, packaging, food processing centre, training centre and safe storage of produce.