• Sunkyu Han

Off-Grid Mobile Cooling in Developing Economies

The cold chain is vital in ensuring fresh food transport worldwide, by using refrigeration to preserve produce and avoid food waste. Everyday food such as fruits, fish, meat, and vegetables all require refrigeration to ensure that what we eat in our homes is fresh and healthy. With the UN striving to achieve 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030, clean transport refrigeration capability in emerging economies becomes ever more important. To achieve UN SDG 2: Zero Hunger and UN SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy in time, nations must work together to welcome technology that does not rely on fossil fuels.

FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of UN) stated that in 2016, 26.7% of the global population was agricultural, meaning that 2 billion people relied on agriculture, fishing, forestry, and hunting for their livelihoods. Furthermore, agriculture was responsible for one-third of the global GDP in 2014 (World Bank).

A rice field farmer (Image: Wilsan Photography)

This reliance on agriculture, and thus the importance of keeping agricultural and fishery produce fresh, is significantly heavier in developing countries. The top 119 countries listed in order of GDP proportion for agriculture, were all developing countries or least developed countries. Sierra Leone was the most reliant with 60.7% of their GDP being dependent on the agriculture industry, followed by Somalia at 60.2%, Chad at 52.3%, and Guinea-Bissau at 50.0%.

In these countries, the causes of food losses are connected to financial, managerial, and technical limitations. These include harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in often difficult climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging, and marketing systems. The Food Loss Index found that losses and waste are generally higher for fruits and vegetables at all stages in the food supply chain. However, the Index stated that food losses vary considerably from one region to another where at a regional level, estimates range from 5-6% in Australia and New Zealand (developed economies) to 20-21% in Central and Southern Asia (developing economies).

Currently, there is no sustainable solution that provides off-grid mobile cooling on a mass-scale, that has both the affordability to be provided to farmers and fishermen in developing countries, and battery capacity to refrigerate for a substantial time solely through the use of solar energy. The absence of a solution means that farmers and fishermen have no method of keeping produce fresh as soon as it is harvested. This period of storage without refrigeration is a contributor to more than 40% of the food losses occurring at post-harvest and processing levels (FAO).

Solar panels in a farm (Image: Science in HD)

As we work together to combat global poverty and food shortage through sustainable methods, the advancement in clean refrigeration for agriculture in developing countries will lead to many benefits for the average consumer, such as decreased retail food price, increased food availability, and less risk of spoilt food resulting in illness. A step towards clean refrigeration will be a step towards improving the lives of people throughout the world.

Sunkyu Han

Business Analyst at Sunswap