Harnessing smartphone technology so that Indian farmers make better business decisions could help to tackle the sustainable cooling challenge facing India and the wider world, according to a new report launched today.
Using mobile apps and data analysis to manage harvesting and logistics could help to reduce the amount of food wasted between farm gate and supermarket shelf, whilst boosting farmers’ incomes and reducing the environmental impact of much-needed food cooling.
The recommendation is part of a four-point ‘roadmap’ developed by experts at the University of Birmingham working with the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and MP Ensystems to uncover the cooling needs of farmers in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The plan’s authors recommend four key actions in ’Promoting Clean and Energy Efficient Cold-Chains in India’:
- Promoting new business models that involve the communities taking charge of their own cooling needs;
- Establishing ‘Living Labs’ in rural communities where new technology can be tested;
- Providing training to enable people in the food industry to use new technology; and
- Creating a new framework for delivering IT-based cold chain solutions; particularly IT-based services to manage harvesting and logistics, and selling surplus cooling capacity.
Effective refrigeration is essential to preserve food and medicine. It underpins industries and economic growth, while air conditioning is key to sustainable urbanisation and human productivity and makes much of the world bearable – or even safe – to live in.
Toby Peters, Professor in Clean Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, commented: “We’re proposing a radical new approach to cooling provision with recommendations combined with Government of India action to address needs from the first to last mile of the cold-chain as well as those of the broader rural community.
“We must build capacity whilst demonstrating the efficiency of new technology that people will be able to use easily and affordably. For example, with increased penetration of mobile-based apps and technologies in rural areas, there is potential for an information-based system to help make informed marketing decisions and boost farmers’ incomes.”
The problems in India are acute, where up to 50% of food is lost post-harvest because of lack of cold chain. The report highlights that only 4% of produce that would benefit from a cold-chain actually does so, compared with around 70% in the UK.