Supported by the University’s Institute for Global Innovation (IGI), Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, is exploring the need and strategies to address this challenge and deliver clean cold chains. Over the course of the next few months the IGI will be running a series of articles looking at the impact of cold chain through real-world stories.
- Peyton Fleming: Cold into Cash: Reinventing Kenya’s rural food systems
Peyton Fleming: The cold truth about Ethiopia’s nutrition gap
It is hard to overstate the importance of the cold chain – an integrated and seamless network of refrigerated and temperature controlled pack houses, distribution hubs and vehicles used to maintain the safety, quality and quantity of food, while moving it swiftly from farm gate to consumption centre.
Where cold warehouses store surplus agricultural produce to meet delayed or deferred demand, cold chains are at the heart of safety, resilience and economic advancement of society. We cannot address malnutrition nor rural poverty without cold chains extending the life of crops and connecting farmers to markets. Equally a seamless cold chain won’t just reduce post-harvest food loss, it will also allow farmers to earn more by maintaining the quality of their produce and presenting an opportunity for crops to be sold further afield.
However, while cold chains are a key contributor to food security and prosperity building, they are currently are reliant on diesel for both transport refrigeration and off-grid power. To cope with demand growth in a sustainable way, systems need to be designed to maximise final energy efficiency and harness renewable and waste energy sources.
Accelerated deployment of clean cold chains is an urgent, significant, but currently not prioritised global challenge that must be addressed to meet our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Climate Agreement and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
With the bulk of agricultural research investment focused on productivity not food loss and market connectivity, there is currently no cohesive and integrated strategy to either mitigate or meet cold chain needs in an economically, environmentally sustainable and resilient way. This includes harnessing waste energy sources, managing natural capital and greenhouse gases while sustaining economy growth. The key is not just focus on the technology solutions, but also the business and finance models, as well as farmer engagement.