UK: Experts from the University of Birmingham are to work with groups in India to explore how sustainable cooling can help Indian farming communities.
Launching the project on World Refrigeration Day (June 26) with a workshop in New Delhi, sustainable cooling experts will look at ways to reduce food waste, increase farmers’ income and meet rural communities’ cooling needs in an affordable and sustainable way. It intends to begin by developing ways of integrating food cold chains with other cold-dependent services such as community health facilities, social facilities such as creches and even emergency services.
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 India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (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 farmer and civil society organisations.
The participants believe that creating Cooling Hubs as business units could meet the livelihood, nutrition, employment, and education requirements of the communities. Using appropriate technology and business models, it says, 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.
With up to 40% of food in India lost post-harvest because of lack of cold chain, the University of Birmingham is proposing a radical approach to cooling provision, where cold chains meet the wider community’s cooling needs in a clean, affordable and sustainable way.
“Cooling hubs could support farmers, whilst ensuring that communities have continuing access to life-saving medicines and properly cooled health facilities and community services,” said the University’s professor Toby Peters.
This project will 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; perhaps 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.
The Hubs could host secondary agricultural activities that utilise local resources in terms of labour and farm output, such as processing milk into cheese or yoghurt, making jams and pickles, and Hindu holistic medicines. They would be employment hubs for the local community.
“Community cooling hubs take forward refrigeration from the immediate realm of cooling machines, into the dimension of collaborative technologies and models to drive a weightier wellbeing,” said NCCD CEO Professor Pawanexh Kohli.
The project follows the University of Birmingham’s partnership earlier in the year with the World Bank Group and UK Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to host a global Clean Cooling Congress around sustainable, accessible cooling for all who need it – without over-heating the planet.
Experts at Birmingham plan to work with the NCCD and others, over a period of 12 months with farming communities in the state of Maharashtra. They will be supported by colleagues from Heriot-Watt University, the University of Edinburgh and ImechE.