Heat to keep things cold and fresh? Solar powered micro-chillers for produce

Sustainability problem– Food wastage and losses due to high temperatures

Sustainability technology– Solar powered portable cost storage that can preserve produce and food for longer

An FAO study indicates that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. This inevitably also means that huge amounts of the resources used in food production are used in vain, and that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by production of food that gets lost or wasted are also emissions in vain.

Local farmers residing in hot climates face a daunting problem: their produce is susceptible to spoilage due to high temperatures which puts them at a disadvantage in markets. For cities in hot climatic regions (Equatorial countries, South East Asia etc.), the transition to sustainable and smart ways of operation require a special focus on mitigating the losses due to food and produce wastage. With growing public expectations over sustainable and local sourcing, farmers in these parts of the world need a reliable way to get their produce to market without spoilage.

Why not use the heat to their advantage? Companies such as Ecozen in India have developed micro-cold storages that run completely on solar power, and allow farmers to preserve their produce. The technology is coupled with sensors that feed data to an app on the farmer’s smartphone, allowing him/her to continuously monitor the health of produce. They are also able to compare average prices of produce in the market and ensure they get the best price possible.

Another unique aspect of this technology is the ability to mount it on trucks, which are often used to transport produce from rural farms to city centers.

Key stakeholders and their role in implementation

  • Farmers- to invest in the micro-cold storage and use it to store their produce
  • Banks and MFIs- create innovative financial products that allow poor farmers to finance this investment
  • Ecozen- create innovative asset sharing platforms, where farmers who may not want to buy the technology can rent it out as they need (so that we don’t produce more of them and instead, transition to a sharing model for the technology).

Sources

http://www.ecozensolutions.com/innovation/micro-cold-storage

http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/suistainability/pdf/Global_Food_Losses_and_Food_Waste.pdf

Comment on “Energy from evaporating water could rival wind or solar”.

Assuming this technology takes off in the near or mid-term future, two key points will need to be kept in mind:

  1. How will the electrical energy be transmitted? Will it feed into the grid or will this technology work better in Distributed Energy Generation models?
  2. Can battery storage be used in tandem to solve the above problem?

 

It would appear that such a technology will be a great starting point for distributed generation, on farms and other places where water is heavily used/evaporation rates are high. It may not be feasible to feed this type of energy directly into the grid. Thoughts?

 

By Aksheya Chandar (ac4154)

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