Director General ISA, HE Upendra Tripathy with Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy, University of Birmingham.

THE International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the University of Birmingham are working together to help farmers in ‘sun-rich’ countries including India make the most of chilled food distribution systems powered by solar and solar-hybrid solutions.

The University of Birmingham is the ISA’s research partner on its Solar Cooling Initiative (I-SCI) which will help to spread the use of solar and solar-hybrid energy linked cold-chains and cooling systems for agricultural use in countries in the tropics, such as India, Egypt, and Brazil.

For this initiative, ISA is collaborating with India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) for domain expertise and knowledge support.

The two organisations will explore opportunities to drive forward ISA’s agenda to research, plan and deliver such technologies in ISA member countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Agricultural economic growth in such countries depends upon connecting farmers with markets – cold chains are vital to transport perishable produce which can otherwise suffer up to 40 per cent loss in the journey from farm to market.

Cold-chain connectivity and reduction in food loss would ensure that the given volume of production generates more revenue and increases farmers’ economic wellbeing.

However, cooling systems must be driven by sustainable technology if they are not increasing the risk of climate change.

Launching the project, Director General ISA, HE Upendra Tripathy said: “This initiative aims to enable millions of farmers by way of integrating cold-chains that work on solar fully or partially. The focus would be on farm-to-fork supply chains – reducing wastage and increasing farmers’ income, leading to economic wellbeing.

“This project will align with the ISA’s first programme ‘Scaling Solar for Applications in the Agricultural Use’. It is noteworthy that 28 countries have joined this programme to install 270,000 solar water pumps for which ISA has launched a global aggregation and price discovery tender.”

Professor Pawanexh Kohli, CEO of NCCD, explains: “I-SCI has brought immediate attention to how solar energy, which already powers the biological production from farms, can be used in key post-production activities.

“The initiative aims to address the sustainability of farming as an enterprise as well as the sustainability aspects of the food delivery system. NCCD looks forward to working with ISA and the University of Birmingham to promulgate the knowledge and research to help this initiative fulfil its potential.”

Cooling systems are typically energy-intensive, use of solar-powered technologies can add to energy efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.

Introducing solar-derived energy hybrids would contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from food loss and waste – currently estimated at 4.4 gigatons eCO2 each year.

The University of Birmingham and NCCD are already collaborating on projects related to innovations in the cold-chain in India.