Cold chain infrastructure bridging the conveyance gap amidst lockdown

Cold chain

Collaborations have to be encouraged between cold chain start-ups and companies working on AI-driven grading, which is minimal at present.

Soumalya Mukherjee, Co-founder, Tan90 talks about addressing the plaguing issues of cold chain sector, while elaborating on how the cold chain infrastructure is playing its role in easing the transportation services for essential goods and services in the pandemic spread across the world.

What is the current state of investments in the cold chain segment?
Given the huge market potential for cold chain, investments in start-ups working in the ecosystem have been promising. Given its importance on food security, Government of India has opened opportunities for investment through the automatic route under 100 percent FDI in addition to supports like grants, subsidies, relaxation on import taxes, etc. However, given this learning from the current lockdown, it is expected that the relevant ministries would re-strategise and encourage more knowledge transfer, and investment routes for cold storage companies.

Addressing the plaguing challenges in the cold chain sector
The core problem lies in the fact that the sector in which cold storages are needed the most – is the procurement section, but is highly price sensitive. Such problems can be mitigated by anaccurate mix of technology and financing aids.

Grading of perishables is equally important as storage. Intelligent decisions can be made regarding their storage or movement for consumption, depending on the colour or texture. Collaborations have to be encouraged between cold chain start-ups and companies working on AI-driven grading, which is minimal at present.Creating a conducive environment where agricultural universities and technical universities can work together on the field with agro start-ups is long due.

Another problem with the procurement section is that the majority of the farmers in India are marginal and have small land holdings. Adoption of models followed in Nigeria can be undertaken, wherein cold chain clusters can be put up at the village level. Such cold chain clusters, need not be of high capacity, but have to be energy efficient to encourage the marginal farmers to use cold storages.

Introduction and enactment of latest technologies into the system
It is highly essential to note that temperature has to be reduced and maintained at the designated optimum set point along the whole supply chain. The importance of pre-cooling chambers has to be re-iterated where the temperature of the greens is brought down from the farm conditions. Zero-energy evaporative cooling mediated PUSA cold chambers can be constructed at the village level. These are not only energy efficient, but are also environmental friendly and could be easily adopted at the farm gate.Solar powered cold storages can also be installed at the farm-gate but several strides on the efficiencies on solar cells have to be made to make the product cost effective and energy efficient.

Future prospects of cold storage market post lockdown
The importance of cold chain along the food supply was re-iterated during the lockdown imposed to contain the corona virus outbreak. Steps in the right direction are being taken by the government, which includes the recent induction of cold storage transportation by railways. This may be an impactful decision, given the wide coverage of rail network.However, several steps are needed to handle temperature sensitive cargos. Flexible, modular and energy efficient solutions like Tan90 portable cold storages can be adopted to bridge the gap in infrastructure that is present in rail cold chain. According to WHO, the corona virus is there to stay for the next two years and given the pace in research, vaccines for COVID19 would be in the market by early next year.

Soumalya Mukherjee,Co-founder,Tan90

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