The University of Birmingham is a research partner on the ISA Solar Cooling Initiative (I-SCI), which will help spread the use of solar and solar-hybrid energy for agricultural use
The University of Birmingham has launched a new project to build on its research partnership with the India-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) and help farmers in “sun-rich” countries make the most of chilled food distribution systems powered by solar and solar-hybrid solutions.
The University of Birmingham is a research partner on the ISA Solar Cooling Initiative (I-SCI), which will help 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.
The university, in collaboration with India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD), 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.
“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,” said Upendra Tripathy, the Director General of ISA, at a launch event on Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
Agricultural economic growth in the countries under focus depends upon connecting farmers with markets and 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 need to be driven by sustainable technology if they are to not increase the risk of climate change.
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 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 and therefore the 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 giga ton eCO2 each year.
The I-SCI project claims to provide a rare opportunity to simultaneously address three internationally agreed goals: the Paris Climate Agreement; the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol; and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Professor Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy, University of Birmingham, said: “Application of clean efficient cooling in cold-chains is vital for delivering sustainable food. It enhances the financial security of farmers, growers and fishers, as well as improving food quality, safety, nutritional content and value to consumers.
“It can also achieve this sustainably with minimum environmental and natural resource impact. Cold-chains can be an essential contributor to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”
Peters stressed that rapid urbanisation presents a big challenge in this field. Creating local and global temperature-controlled “field to fork” connectivity to feed 10 billion people sustainably from hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, whose livelihoods and well-being are often dependent on only one-two hectares, is one of the major challenges identified. Ensuring such connectivity is climate change adaptation ready and resilient, all without using fossil fuels, is another big focus area.
“Our work with the new International Solar Alliance Solar cooling initiative will set out to answer this big and urgent challenge,” he said.
I-SCI will enable joint research into solar and solar-hybrid cooling and cold-chain solutions, solar energy storage and energy-efficient solar appliances. Birmingham University is already collaborating with the organisation on projects related to innovations in the cold-chain in India.
University Pro-Vice Chancellor (International) Robin Mason added: “Research in solar energy continues to be important for the University of Birmingham. We believe our partnership with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) will contribute significantly to the advancement of a number of initiatives, including clean cold, sustainable energy, energy storage and energy grids.
“The University and the ISA are natural allies and partners. Both support a United Nations mandate; both are working in support of numerous Sustainable Development Goals; and both are deeply committed to attaining sustainable energy security among countries in Asia and the global South.” The university said the latest partnership further affirms its deep and continued commitment to India to deliver impactful research and tackle the energy and climate challenges.