Cover story

Last-mile freshness 

last mile freshness

Food is a big part of Indian culture. With the rising population, urbanisation, and changing lifestyles, the demand for perishable goods has shot through the roof. Production has soared to meet demand, but delivering fresh produce and sustaining it until consumption is still challenging. The feature treats this complicated part of cold chain logistics and tech integration as a resolution. 

According to a report by Grand View Research, the Indian cold chain market is expected to reach a whopping $15.3 billion by 2028! That is over triple in less than a decade, indicating an inclination towards growth. The term growth is not limited to numbers; real factors drive it. E-commerce is a visible example of expanding this topic. The rise of online grocery shopping has increased the demand for efficient cold-chain logistics. Keeping the produce fresh from the farm and bringing it to the doorstep is now necessary. The government is also pushing for agricultural reforms and investments in infrastructure. Schemes, subsidies, logistics parks, and food parks are pumping money into cold chain projects across the country, boosting the entire ecosystem.

COVID-19 might have thrown a wrench into many industries, but for the logistics of the cold chain, it was like a turbo boost. Everyone realised the importance of keeping goods fresh and safe, whether vaccines or groceries. 

Dr Nitin Goel, Chief Executive Officer, Inficold India, shares a use case from the agriculture industry. If we want to eat an apple in the summer, the primary problem with the Fuji or Washington apples we get in India is the state in which they are delivered. The temperature has risen to a peak above 45 degrees Celsius. In this case, we witness that the farms producing the desired apples lack a proper cold chain and related infrastructure. The delivery of these apples from one part of the nation to its extreme opposite is challenging due to the lack of a system. Another challenge is to sustain this seasonal produce for years till the next year brings fresh produce. 

From the perspective of the perspective of the cold chain industry, Nitin adds, “Our collective goal for future development centres is to provide sustainable and farm-gate cooling solutions. They are necessary as 20–30 per cent of our post-harvest losses come from India, and we need to minimise them.”

The effectiveness of a cold chain depends on the strength of each component. Storage, transportation, delivery of temperature-sensitive items, and use of suitable equipment throughout are critical. Should a truck or storage facility encounter issues, swift backup support has to be ready. Unlike regular transportation, the cold chain demands constant vigilance and availability, operating 24/7 for smooth operations. Vinay Bajpai, Associate Director of Carrier Transicold India, mentioned that newer technologies and products will keep the industry aligned with market demands, which aim to evolve continually. Keeping abreast of market trends is imperative in this dynamic landscape.”


IoT sensor technology provides us with real-time monitoring rather than just tracking the goods. Philip Antony, Head of Supply Chain & Distribution at Baskin Robbins India, mentions, “Monitoring with many dashboards and data visibility is also used for further analysis and decision-making. The practice also leads to increased transparency. With transparency, ethical practices will be followed in all cold chain applications. The whole process makes the customers aware of cold chain techniques and requirements, and they yearn to be more aware of product quality before consuming or using it. Fetching transparency is the trend persisting in the market. 

Sensors are an aspect of link technology. Monitoring the truck’s temperature by installing sensors throughout it is simple. The sensors can be positioned throughout the container: on the entrance side, on the unit side, where the evaporator handles the return air counts, or on the pallet, which is where the temperature of the product is maintained. The option to select the sensors you wish to keep an eye on is available. The technology is already in use and readily available to keep track of the freshness of your produce. 

Preeti Saluja, Regional Business Head, India Subcontinent and Middle East, Aeris Dynamics, shares an incident where a pharmaceutical company’s liquid nitrogen shipper was recently involved in an incident that resulted in the spoiling of a costly consignment. The large consignment was rolled while being delivered beneath their feet. Had there been a temperature logger in real-time, the ground handling organisation might have been prompted to request assistance. Developing real-time monitoring tools is a big step towards guaranteeing an effective and safe shipment. 

Tech integration 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to perform predictive analysis since a wealth of data is already available. Many conglomerates have already gathered the information to integrate with AI. It would help reduce spoilages due to the pre-hand knowledge about the external ambient condition, the kind of packaging system required for a particular lane, and the particular mood. The WHO provides around 20 to 30 percent of the data.

Data can track the specific route of shipment while generating a predictive analysis. It is possible to determine historical packing data, seasonal variations in ambient temperature, and any previous temperature excursions. This analysis can provide us with patterns of temperature excursions with certain packaging configurations. Such data and the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) can reduce temperature excursions. The potential of AI and predictive analysis can optimise temperature-controlled packaging systems.

About the cold chain, the main focus lies in reducing touchpoints wherever feasible. Philip adds that robotics integrates barcodes and QR codes into products, easing the production processes. Additionally, AI and ML are used to forecast and reverse supply chains. This trend towards automation and robotics shifts the entire aspect towards less manual intervention. The investment in robotics is increasing with advancements in manless equipment for warehousing and supply chain operations. It is fostered by the availability of low-cost models due to maturing technology and reduced initial investment costs. This is mainly due to the clearer visibility of returns on investment (ROI) and the promising prospects it offers.

Blockchain is a mandate that requires the simultaneous adoption of multiple technologies. Philip adds that there is no umbrella for all the technologies in a single place. Users tend to have several service providers and various solutions for end-to-end visibility and monitoring. The adoption of blockchain will be exorbitant, provided its requirements are met. 

Thermal Storage 

One of thermal storage units’ primary advantages over solar cold storage units is their 48-hour autonomy. With 48 hours of autonomy, we don’t have as many issues as standard cold storage chairs. The compressor’s duty cycle is significantly lower. In conventional cold storage, your compressor will switch on and off in 35 minutes if the temperature rises; in these situations, the compressor will only run for thirty minutes. 

Eco-friendly materials

All of the refrigeration materials we use in India are powered by 404 gases, which are environmentally friendly or ozone-friendly. The transition to CO2 is gradual as a refrigerant source. Various other gases are taken into consideration. The goal is to slow down the ozone hole and prevent further ozone depletion. 

The refrigeration equipment we use does not need insulation in and of itself; instead, the insulation needed is in the container body that holds the equipment. Over the years, the insulation used in this container body has changed from PU polyurethane foam to GRP. Better installations and lighter boxes are employed to protect the environment. 

Preeti suggests another material, dry ice, which is an exceptional refrigerant. Regarding sustainability and other associated issues, the two main problems with dry ice are its carbon dioxide content and its rapid dissipation. Dry ice is simple to replace and maintains a temperature below minus 50 degrees. Many businesses attempted to mimic and produce alternatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Obtaining the replicates, however, would be difficult because, while it is possible to create a phase change material as a refrigerant using both organic and inorganic PCM, doing so would require the possession of certain equipment for preconditioning the PCM.  To replicate rice, you would also need a minus 80 degrees Celsius freezer. Having this kind of equipment on hand is another task to tackle. 

India still needs to catch up with cold storage standards and regulations. The problem is with the refrigerant supply chain. The supply of refrigerants in remote and deep-country areas is a task despite multiple efforts to fix it. The fact that the entire industry is concentrated in metropolises is one of the causes of stress. The journey to update cold chain logistics will not be smooth sailing. There is a fair share of challenges, from outdated infrastructure to regulatory hurdles. But they are all part of the game, and the Indian cold chain warehousing and logistics market is ready to blast off into the stratosphere like a rocket ship. 


Dr Nitin Goel, Chief Executive Officer, Inficold India Private Limited

“Cold chain logistics is faced with challenges in India due to the lack of standards and outdated refrigerants, hindering farm-to-market efficiency. Sustainable, rural-focused solutions are required for reducing post-harvest losses.”

Philip Antony, Head of Supply Chain and Distribution at Baskin Robbins India

“Robotics and automation deployment will heighten the outcome of operations and prove  cost-effective.”

Preeti Saluja, Regional Business Head, India Subcontinent and Middle East Aerial Dynamics

“Integrating AI with existing data on temperature logging can level up cold chain logistics, minimise spoilage, save up to 20–30 percent of costs, address challenges, and improve operational availability.”

Vinay Bajpai, Associate Director of Carrier Transicold India

“The cold chain mandates vigilance. From temperature-sensitive equipment to meticulous monitoring, every link must uphold reliability. Evolution and eco-consciousness drive our journey towards sustainable logistics.”

Cookie Consent

We use cookies to personalize your experience. By continuing to visit this website you agree to our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


To Top