Did you know that only 10% of the world's perishable food is refrigerated? It may come as a surprise, but the refrigerated trucks and cold storage warehouses ubiquitous in post-industrial developed countries are not the norm in the developing world, where much of global hunger occurs. A study funded by air conditioning and refrigeration giant Carrier suggests that expanding cold chain technology in these countries will benefit farmers, consumers, and the planet.
The study was carried out in India and focused on distribution of kinnow, a citrus fruit grown primary in the Punjab, in the northern part of the country. When shipped over 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles) to Bangalore in the southern part of the country using uncovered, unrefrigerated trucks, nearly a third of the fruit is lost, either due to rot or bouncing out of the trucks onto the road. To account for this loss, Punjabi farmers must produce an excessive crop to meet consumer needs.
The Carrier-funded study, designed by National Centre for Cold-chain Development, India CEO Pawanexh Kohli, compared the carbon footprints of kinnow distributed through traditional, non-cold chain means to kinnow pre-cooled and shipped in refrigerated trucks according to modern cold chain practices. In spite of the increased energy use and diesel emissions associated with cold storage and refrigerated trucks, the study found that using cold chain technology actually reduced CO2 emissions by 16% overall, while cutting product loss by a game-changing 76%.
By instituting modern cold chain practices, researchers were able to make the kinnow harvest more than 15% greener and ten times more profitable. By eliminating loss, cold storage and transportation enabled kinnow farmers to serve the same consumer population while simultaneous reducing production without fear of lost profits.
This means that investment in cold chain technology can significantly streamline the agriculture industry throughout the developing world. By removing the need for over-production to compensate for product loss and spoilage, cold chain maintenance can lower the greenhouse gas emissions of the agriculture industry (which account for almost a quarter of global emissions) while also increasing the amount of food available for distribution. Farmers, distributors, retailers and consumers all clearly benefit from this arrangement.
Temperature and humidity verification are key aspects of cold chain maintenance. To ensure that food is stored and transported under ideal conditions, shipping and distribution companies use devices known as data loggers. These sensors record and report environmental conditions to demonstrate that food can be counted on as safe and fresh. MadgeTech, the New Hampshire data logging company, manufactures a variety of cold chain monitoring solutions for the shipping and storage industries.
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