Cold Chains: The Essential Infrastructur prof. Gautam PherwaniWith the modernization of the nation’s infrastructure, cold chains are an essential part of thenation’s economy. Purvin Patel reports.A cold chain is a temperature controlled supply chain which is used to extend and ensure theshelf life of products such as fresh agricultural produce, seafood, frozen food, chemicals andpharmaceutical drugs.The cold chain consists of two logistic systems:Surface storage: Refrigerated warehouses for storage of temperature sensitive products.Refrigerated Transportation: Reefer trucks, containers, ships and trains for transport oftemperature sensitive products.A cold chain logistics player could either be a cold storage owner or the owner of a fleet of reefertrucks. Also, there are 3PL firms which own the entire network, right from procurement to thefinal destination of the temperature sensitive products.Thus, the success of cold chain companies relies on how efficiently they can transporttemperature sensitive products from the place of origin to their destination with full integrity.Different products require different temperatures. The common standard temperatures are Chiller(-2oC), Frozen (-18oC) and Deep Frozen (-25oC).Current State Of Sector
Industries which need cold chains are fruits and vegetables, ice cream, processed meat andpoultry, seafood, preventive medicines (mainly vaccines) and chemicals.The cold chain has a critical role to play in India as two-thirds of the country’s population isdependent on agriculture for its livelihood. The Indian food market is estimated at over $182billions. India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, with an annualvegetable produce of around 85 million tonne and an annual fruit produce of around 45 milliontonne. Of the close to 130 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables that the country produces,nearly 40 percent gets wasted.India is the largest producer of milk in the world, producing close to 100 million tonne, andaccounting for nearly 17 percent of global production. About 35 percent of this milk isprocessed. More than 10 percent of annual milk production in the country is lost due toinadequate storage facilities.India has roughly 5,300 cold storages with a capacity of 23 million metric tonne, over 90 percentof which are suitable just for storing potatoes only.Inconsistent standards in different sections of the cold chain could lead to damage of food, eitherby shock or by undue temperature variations. This degrades food quality due to chemicalreactions which are triggered off, which can otherwise be mitigated by low temperatures. Tomaintain integrity of food and pharmaceutical products, these providers rely on efficient andfully integrated end-to-end cold supply chain technology. Thus cold chain companies shoulddesign a supply chain solution which maintains the required temperature according to thephysical attributes of the product.Challenges In The SectorCold chains face several roadblocks in their growth and some of the most challenging hurdles arelisted below: • Rising Real Estate Cost: A fully integrated cold storage facility of international standards, with one million cubic ft. of storage space, will require an area of approximately an acre, which is a huge investment. • Location for Cold Storage: Cooling units are not mobile units, so the location of such units becomes a key constraint as there are very few parcels of large land spaces available in India. • Lack of Proper Infrastructure: The cold chain industry in India is very fragmented, with players not having the strength to invest in the technology needed to build high quality cold storage or to invest in reefer trucks. • High Energy Cost: Energy expenses alone account for about 30 percent of the total expenses of the cold chain sector in India. This is the main constraint about setting up cold chains in India. India’s peak power deficit is around 17-18 percent. Thus the investment in back-up systems increases capital investment costs.
• Uneven Distribution of Capacity: The majority of cold storages in India have been established in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and West Bengal. But the establishment of such cold storages needs to be more geographically diverse. • The cold storages present in India can cater to single commodities only. Different commodities require different temperature conditions, resulting in poor capacity utilization and low financial viability. • FDI Restrictions in Retail: Cold chain infrastructure needs huge investment. Easing restrictions on FDI in multi-brand retail could open up channels for further fund infusion from new foreign entrants.Role Of Cold Chain Service ProvidersWith the demand for better quality food at affordable prices by consumers, companies rely oncold chain service providers to fulfill it. The service providers should be able to develop systemsand processes to mitigate risk associated with temperature abuse in cold chains and thus help inbusiness growth.The service provider should understand the importance of capacity utilization, productivity,inventory, cost, waste, error and theft (WET) management, along with the ability to track andtrace these parameters. This will help to reduce total system costs which in turn will improve thebottom line.The success of implementing cold chain solutions to serve the consumers involves propernetwork optimization of warehouses, facility planning, the monitoring of product qualitythroughout the cold chain and having a corrective action plan to counter any gaps.Further, the higher cost associated with operating cold chains needs excellent operationalefficiencies and continuous improvements to maximize profits for service providers.Other major challenges which make cold chains more complex are inadequate logisticsinfrastructure, poor road connectivity, inadequate IT systems and inefficient transport providers.Product HandlingTo move temperature sensitive goods with full product integrity, supply chain solution providersshould have well-established processes from pre-shipment preparation to final verification anddelivery to destination.Product handling is an inherent and important aspect which needs great attention. Themaintenance of a cold chain is the best way to maintain the quality of a product and minimize allforms of deterioration after harvesting, including weight loss which results in wilting andlimpness, softening, bruising, unwanted ripening, colour changes, texture degradation and thegrowth of fungus as well as the decay of products.
The export of fresh produce often involves long transit time and frequent handling. This makeseffective cold chain management more difficult and even more essential, to ensure that theproduct finally consumed retains maximum freshness.Importance Of Efficient Cold Chains • Increasing government regulation. The demand from customers for continuously available high quality food products are primary drivers of cold chain integration. • Today’s busy and health conscious consumer is demanding fresh, wholesome and healthy products in increasing volumes and a variety of offerings. • Cold chain systems can be of strategic importance to companies since brand integrity, customer confidence, market share and profit are all at risk.Improving The Cold Chain • The Budget 2011-2012 provided infrastructure status to the cold chain sector. • The Budget exempted air-conditioning equipment and refrigeration panels used in cold chain infrastructure as well as conveyer belts from excise duty. • The Budget 2010-2011 proposed a concessional import duty of five percent with full exemption from service tax to set up and expand cold chains to preserve farm products as well as milk, meat and poultry products. • The Budget 2010-2011 included duty-free import of refrigeration units, which is required to make refrigerated vans or trucks. It also exempted trailers and semi-trailers used in agriculture from excise duty. • The government of India introduced tax benefits for companies investing in cold chain facilities as part of the budget 2009-2010. • The government of India has also revised its scheme of food parks in the tenth Five Year Plan and changed to the Mega Food Park Scheme (MFPS) under the 11th Five Year Plan • Investment from private equity funds in various cold chain projects. • The involvement of railways and airports for transportation of cold chain products. • The government of India has taken a decision to set up the National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD) to address the issue relating to gaps in cold chain infrastructure in India.Maintaining and enhancing efficiencies in the cold supply chain is the most important thing. Thebest way to do this is by reducing touch points in the supply chain. By following these practicesrigorously and with passion, we can reduce the cost of the cold chain as well as improve coldchain processes.
With average capacity utilization in the cold chain sector between 30 percent to 75 percent, theprofits of a cold storage facility depend largely on investment in technology, infrastructure andservice standards.The most important factors that will decide the growth of the cold chain sector is the flow offunds in this sector. The investment can be from large business houses. Also, the government canhelp in acquisition of land to set up cold chain storage facilities. The government must also speedup the introduction of GST, which will help in the development of centrally located warehouses.Bank locker exampleA cold storage space of this size can be set up for a capital cost of under Rs 7 lakh (landexcluded), for a cooling level of 5 degrees C, which will cover most fresh fruit and vegetables.(Temperature and moisture requirements do vary. Meat, for example, needs to be frozen. Eventhat can be set up.) Each cooler can be run by an owner-operator, throwing up lakhs of ruralemployment opportunities.The electricity cost for such a storage locker (5 KW per hour, running 18 hours a day) isestimated at Rs 4,000 per week. Farmers can rent space in the cold locker on usage basis.The rental cost per 100 cu ft will be just around Rs 400 per week (assuming 50 per cent capacityutilisation, and a target revenue of Rs 10,000 per week to cover electricity cost, manpower andreturn on investment).The government can guarantee a return on this infrastructure investment, like it has done forfertiliser plants.(The real challenge will be access to continuous supply of electricity, a problem that is commonto all.)India can set up 100,000 (500 million cubic feet) of these cold storage lockers in the villages andmandis for a cost of just Rs 7,000 crore.To put this amount in perspective, the government is spending Rs 40,000 crore on the NationalRural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which shows we have the resources.India can build the largest disaggregated ground-level cold storage chain in the world.Transportation cold chainThe cost of adding refrigeration to a 7-9 tonne truck is around Rs 6 lakh. An expert in truckingwhom I spoke to confirmed that truck operators will add this to their trucks, once theyunderstand the higher rentals they can charge.
For a modest investment which can be indigenously funded, we can create a fleet of tens ofthousands of refrigerated trucks plying all over the country. The pot-in-pot system, the coldstorage locker chain, the refrigerated trucks, and presumably other simple ideas – all of these canbe created easily.FDI in multi-brand retail, with the massive damage it will cause to farmers and traders and theentire ecosystem, is not required to address the cold storage issue.Instead of handing over our markets and cold chain infrastructure to foreign companies, we cancreate our own inclusive solution that will be the envy of the world.Instead of handing over our markets and cold chain infrastructure to foreign companies, we cancreate our own inclusive solution that will be the envy of the world.The word “reform” is a euphemism for big foreign capital to gain access to Indian domesticmarkets in a policy framework that is conducive to their success. The announcement on foreigndirect investment in multi-brand retail, currently in ‘pause mode, is one such example.One of the major reasons cited for such foreign investment is that this alone is the answer tobuilding our nations cold storage chain, to reduce wastage of fresh fruits and vegetables.Let us look at two simple low-cost solutions, both of which can be indigenously developed,tested and deployed on a mass scale.Lesson from NigeriaThis inspiring example comes from the region around Kano, in northern Nigeria, an areacharacterised by hot days, low relative humidity and low rainfall that is concentrated within threemonths.The region is home to a third of Nigerias population of over 150 million people. The people aremostly small farmers and cattle-rearers. The area suffers from poor roads and power shortage,making cold storage difficult (a description that applies to vast tracts of India).Consequently, farmers had to sell their produce at low prices, since they could not hold theproduce.After studying the problem in depth, Mohammed Bah Abba, an enterprising lecturer atthe Jigawa State Polytechnic, Dutse, came up with a unique solution. Hailing from a family ofpotters, he invented the pot-in-pot system of cooling (called zeer in local language).The pot-in-pot technology consists of two earthenware pots of different diameters, one placedinside the other. The space between the two pots is filled with wet sand that is kept constantlymoist, thereby keeping both pots damp. Fruit and vegetables are put in the inner pot, which iscovered with a damp cloth. The phenomenon that occurs is based on a simple principle ofphysics: the water contained in the sand between the two pots evaporates towards the outersurface of the larger pot where the drier air is circulating.
The evaporation automatically produces cooling, causing a drop in temperature of severaldegrees in the inner container, extending the life of the perishable foods inside. In testsconducted, the temperature in the inner pot was reduced by 6-8 degrees C in 12 hours, and couldbe maintained by keeping the sand moist.The shelf life of the produce improved significantly, as shown in the table.The impact of the pot-in-pot was a reduction in the wastage of fresh fruits and vegetables.Farmers could hold the produce longer and sell on demand at higher prices. The cost of a pot-in-pot unit is around $5 (less than Rs 300).Will this work in India? Tests can be run in different States to answer this question. The conceptis not new as it is similar to matka-cooled water served in many parts of our country. More than30,000 units are being sold annually in northern Nigeria. This cant happen unless it issuccessful.The cooling required for many perishables is much more than what can be achieved in the pot-in-pot. However, this inexpensive non-electrical system can be the first level of storage in thefarmers homes, for produce which are amenable to this system. Lakhs of these of varying sizescan be deployed at a very low cost.We all know how a bank locker works. We rent space as required, have access to it when wewant, and pay a modest usage fee.Now, imagine a cold storage room at the village level of size 20 width x 25 length x 10 height –5,000 cu ft of space. Experts refer to this as a walk-in cooler.Case: Cold storage projectCold storage – what’s in store?India is one of the leading producers of milk, fruits and vegetables. The cold storage industry istrying to keep pace with the country’s production, in order to exploit its immense potential.Arvind Surange brings a report on the development of the sector in the country, with specialreference to modernisation of its infrastructure.THE ABSTRACT • Print this story • Email to a friend • Download as PDF
• Discussions • Social ShareCold chain is now recognised as an upcoming sector in India. A country which ranks first in milkproduction in the world, number two in fruit and vegetable (F&V) production and has substantialoutput of marine, meat and poultry products, warrants a fully developed and efficient cold chainfacilities. Given this scenario, there is tremendous scope for the development of a well-streamlined cold chain sector.Cold stores form the heart of the cold chain sector. Though cold stores made an entry in India atthe beginning of the 20th century, its development as a full-fledged segment was rather slow.The units were typically designed for storage of potatoes and were located in states like UttarPradesh, West Bengal Punjab and Bihar. It was only in the 1960s that the idea of multi-productand multi-chamber cold stores was introduced, with Maharashtra taking the lead.At present, the cold storage sector is undergoing a major metamorphosis, with the Governmentof India focusing on food preservation. Fortunately, the emphasis is also on energy efficiency asthe sector is energy intensive.With the advent of newer materials and equipment, every link of a cold chain renders itself opento improvement. As a result, construction, insulation, refrigeration equipment and controls arewitnessing a sea change.Realising the significance of the cold chain sector, the Government has taken initiatives throughbodies like the National Horticulture Board (NHB) to establish standards to regulate all thecomponents of the sector. Efforts are also being made to evolve the concept of a ‘green coldchain’. In short, the cold chain industry is undergoing both an evolution and a revolution.The present article will cover the development of the cold storage sector in India with changes inthe pattern of utilisation, design, construction practices and energy-saving concepts.INTRODUCTIONWhen India got Independence in 1947, there were only a few cold stores, mainly located in UttarPradesh, Punjab and West Bengal. Most of them were bulk cold stores designed for storage ofpotatoes. These were mainly based on old technology and design – thermal insulation andrefrigeration systems with practically no automation involved. One of the oldest multi-chambercold stores was located at the Fruit Research Station in Pune, and was said to be installed in1932, during the British Rule. This was mainly an experimental station, with seven cold rooms,which worked on a common brine chilling plant. The unit was mainly used for studying cold
storage parameters for a variety of fruit and vegetables grown in India. This proves that theconcept of multi-product cold storage was realised in the 1930s itself. A few cold stores didcome up in Mumbai in the 1950s, with a number of small chambers, mainly used for potatoes,some variety of fruits and dry fruits.During the period between the 1950s and the 1960s, the development of the cold storage industrywas mainly confined to Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh andGujarat, where cold stores of medium and large sizes were set up. But these were mainly bulkstorage units for potatoes.Major development of the concept of a multipurpose cold storage unit took off between 1965 and1970, when a few units were established for storage of a variety of products in Bangalore andPune.MAFCO (Maharashtra Agro and Fruit Processing Corporation), a Government undertaking inMaharashtra, established around 1970, played a significant role in promoting the concept ofmultipurpose cold storage, food processing, freezing and the storage of frozen foods. It wasfollowed by a few private promoters setting up units. But it was not an appreciable number. Thecapacities of multipurpose units generally ranged from 1,000 MT to 20,000 MT. The largestmultipurpose unit with a capacity of 22,000 MT is located in the Turbhe Industrial Area in NaviMumbai (M/s Savla Foods & Cold Storage).Presently, the multipurpose units store a large number of food products, such as F&V, dry fruits,spices, milk products, confectionery and all types of frozen food.THE GROWTH OF COLD STORAGE INDUSTRYThe perishable food production is estimated as: • Milk: 115 Million MT (No. 1 in the world) • F&V: 200 Million MT (No. 2 in the world) • Fish: 6.4 Million MT • Meat: Largest cattle population in the worldThe food processing sector in India is growing at a steady pace. From an initial two per centprocessing capacity, it has now grown to six per cent of F&V production with a present growthrate of about 14% to 15%. The target rate for the F&V processing segment in the next few yearshas been set at 20%. This shows that there is a great potential for the sector in India.
The growth of cold storage industry in India from the year 1955 to 2008 is shown in Table 1.Table 2 shows the region-wise breakup of the numbers of cold stores in different regions basedon the data available for the year 2007. It is evident from Table 2 that the distribution of coldstores in different regions of India has not been uniform. Figure 1 additionally shows this region-wise distribution. Table 3 indicates the capacities in the MT of cold stores in different regions.Table 4 shows the sector-wise (public, private and cooperative sectors) distribution of cold storesbased on the year 2007. Table 5 shows product-wise distribution of the cold storage capacity in2007.PRE-COOLING OF F&VThe concept of pre-cooling of grapes was introduced in the 1980s, primarily in Maharashtra,which is the leading grape-growing state in India. This helped the farmers to export grapes toareas like Europe and the Gulf countries. Later, the technology was adopted for other fruits likemango, pomegranate and orange.Controlled atmosphere storage:
With the onset of the 21st century, the need was felt to set up controlled atmosphere (CA)storage, following trends in Europe, America and other countries. A number of CA stores havenow been established in the northern part of the country, at locations which have proximity to theapple-growing regions. The capacities generally range between 1,000 MT and 12,000 MT. Aproject of 12,000 MT set up by CONCOR (a government body) is the largest in the country sofar. A few units of smaller capacities have also been established in western and southern India.Ripening units:There has been considerable interest in scientific ripening and storage of fruits like banana andmango in recent years, and units are being established at a number of places. A gooddevelopment in this direction can be seen in southern India, Gujarat and Maharashtra.Distribution centres:With the growth of cold chain in the country, food distribution centres are also being established,with the first such unit constructed in Navi Mumbai. A number of smaller centres have been setup by the food retail sector, and a further growth is expected in the coming years.COLD STORAGE CLASSIFICATIONAs per the present-day practice, cold stores can be classified as follows: • Bulk cold stores – generally for storage of a single commodity, which mostly operate on a seasonal basis, for example, storage for potatoes, chillies and apples. • Multipurpose cold stores designed for storage of a variety of commodities, which operate round the year. The products stored in these types of cold stores are fruit, vegetables, dry fruits, spices, pulses and milk products. These units have been mainly located close to consumption centres.
• Small cold stores with pre-cooling facilities for fresh F&V, mainly, for export- oriented items like grapes. The major concentration of these units is in Maharashtra. But the trend is now picking up in other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. • Frozen food stores with or without processing and freezing facility for fish, meat, poultry, dairy products and processed F&V. These units have helped the promotion and growth of the frozen food sector, both in the domestic and export markets. However, the percentage of food so processed is extremely low. There is a great potential for the growth in this category. • Mini units/walk-in cold stores located at hotels restaurants, malls and supermarkets. • CA stores for certain F&Vs like apples, pears and cherries. • Ripening chambers mainly set up for bananas and mangoes.TRENDS IN CONSTRUCTION PRACTICESWhile the bulk cold stores have fewer large-sized chambers, the multi-purpose units have alarger number of smaller chambers designed for the simultaneous storage of a variety of items tosuit the needs of farmers, traders and customers. The general types of construction followed inthe Indian cold storage industry are as under: • Conventional buildings with RCC frames, brick walls and truss-type sheet roofs or RCC slabs with internal floor structure of RCC or steel frame with wooden or steel grating • Buildings with a single floor structure designed for mechanised loading and unloading of products • Pre-engineered building structures designed with cold chambers constructed from sandwich-insulated panelThe latest trend is to have cold chambers in a single-floor construction, with heights varyingfrom five to 12 metres or higher, with mechanised loading/unloading facilities. Some units haveracks for stacking the goods.Recent practices are:Walls and ceiling: Insulated panel constructionRoof: Sheet metal roofing on trusses
Internal structures:a) Steel structure with steel grille floors for conventional loadingb) Racks for mechanised loadingConstruction practices in India vary, depending on the size of the unit, location and pattern ofutilisation. Small cold stores usually have sandwich-panel construction.In case of medium and large cold stores, the facilities involve a) Loading/unloading areasb) Ante roomsc) Cold storage chambersd) Staircases and liftse) Machine roomf) Office, toilets and other facilities.Conventional buildings have multi-floor chambers, where loading and unloading is donemanually. The floor height ranges from two to 2.5 metres, and the number of floors from three tosix.
The evolution of the cold storage construction practice is shown in the four figures depicted asfollows:TRENDS IN THERMAL INSULATION PRACTICESThermal insulation is an extremely important component in a cold chain system. It performs twovital functions:1. To minimise the flow of heat from the surrounding areas to the inside space2. To minimise the flow of moisture from surrounding areas to cold chambersIt is, therefore, important to select proper material with the right thickness, vapour barrier,cladding and the method of application to ensure that the basic objectives of providing thermalinsulation are fulfilled in the best possible manner. It needs to be kept in mind that while therefrigeration system works for certain number of hours, depending on the load requirement, theinsulation is on a continuous 24×7 duty for the entire period of storage.
Insulation materialsIn some old units, cheaper material, like rice husk, was once used as thermal insulation.Although the insulation itself was very cheap, it necessitated very large insulation thicknessesand also caused maintenance and hygiene problems. This method is almost extinct now.In cold stores, having conventional construction built after the 1970s, the general practice hasbeen to use insulation materials like Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), fibreglass, Polyurethane RigidFoam (PUF) or similar materials. Recently, materials like Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) have alsobeen introduced.The old practice in case of conventional construction was to fix the insulation with bitumen asvapour barrier and using wooden pegs and batten framework, covered with chicken wire meshand cement and sand plaster. However, the current practice is to avoid the use of wooden battensand use metallic runners instead, to support the sheet metal cladding, which are generallyprofiled pre-coated sheets.Sandwich-insulated panel structureThe development of insulated panels has ushered in a revolution in the cold storage constructionthe world over. Although, these panels have been in use for cold storage construction for overfour decades in the developed countries, in India, sandwich panels were introduced only about 25years ago. Sandwich panels are mainly available in two types:1. EPS panels, with EPS bonded to the sheet metal skins by using a special type of glue2. PUF panels using Polyurethane as insulation material foamed between the two metal skins.These panels are structurally strong and have a better insulation value as compared to EPS panelsfor a given thicknessInsulated panels have been used for making cold stores, right from the small walk-ins to verylarge cold stores. In fact, the application of panels has gone beyond the cold storage sector, andthe panels are being used for construction of processing plants, prefabricated houses,warehouses, clean rooms and the like. The panels have also been used for fabricating doors forcold stores, which are light and simple in construction, compared to the conventional insulateddoors.The panels offer greater flexibility and a faster pace of construction, apart from better thermalefficiency due to better isolation between the outside and the inside areas. The use of panelseliminates brick walls and RCC slabs, thereby increasing the cold store volume for a given
footprint. The major advantage is the possibility of modular construction with ease of addition orexpansion. Panels are available with different types of skin finish and offer a better hygienicenvironment to the structure.TRENDS IN REFRIGERATION SYSTEMOver 90% of the cold store units built in the northern and the eastern parts of India were basedon old technology, involving use of slow-speed ammonia refrigeration compressor, without anycapacity control, atmospheric condensers and either bunker-type evaporator coils or floor-mounted air cooling units (diffusers) with ducting for air distribution. These plants were not veryenergy efficient, due to lack of capacity control, loss of expensive cold storage space for large-sized bunker coils or diffuser units and associated ducting.The current practices involve energy-efficient designs of equipment and use reciprocating andscrew compressors with capacity control, evaporative condensers with MS (hot-dip galvanised)or SS coils and ceiling-suspended finned air- cooling units using MS or SS coils with aluminiumfins. The types of fans used in the units have SS/aluminium or FRP blades. The FRP optionoffers the benefit of lower HP motors for the fans.Refrigeration systems for cold storage application can be classified as: • Modular units using HFC/HCFC refrigerant • Central plants using HFC/HCFC refrigerants with air- cooled/water-cooled machines • Central plants using ammonia refrigerant • Vapour-absorption system using ammonia-water combination. This system is now being considered for rural areas due to availability of alternative fuels like biogas and agrofuel.Material handlingThe flow of products to and from the cold store is an important aspect in cold storagefunctioning. In conventional cold stores, the loading and unloading of products is still donemanually. However, in recent installations, the practice is to use electrical hoists/lifts and/orforklift trucks for handling of products. These storages incorporate rack structures in thechambers for storing products in pallets or boxes. Arrangement for loading of pallets incontainers and reefer vans is also provided in the modern cold store units. Use of computers tocontrol loading, unloading operations and to maintain the record of stocks is also in practice insome of the new colds stores.
Energy savingCold storage is the heart of the cold chain. Refrigeration is the fundamental process for cooling,pre-cooling, freezing and cold storage. Among the various methods of food preservation,refrigeration is the best one, and there is no substitute for it in terms of quality and extended life.However, refrigeration is an expensive process, both in terms of first cost and energy cost.Lack of adequate energy supply and rising energy rates are serious problems faced by the coldstorage sector. Owners and manufacturers in the sector have increasingly begun to realise theneed for adopting various energy-saving methods.In recent years, the Green Building movement has attracted the attention of planners, designers,builders and contractors the world over. The author has also propagated the concept of ‘greencold chain’ involving green cold stores in India.CONCLUSIONAn overview of the cold chain system in India over the past five to six decades shows that coldstorage construction technology, practices of thermal insulation, refrigeration plant technology,automation and material handling have undergone significant transformation. From the point ofview of utilisation, too, the cold stores today offer a much wider scope than in the past. Energy-saving and ‘green cold chain’ concepts are also being seriously looked at by progressiveentrepreneurs and designers. However, it must be noted that for a country which is a frontrunnerin milk production and in the second position in F&V production, the overall storage capacity ofaround 25 million MT of cold storage available in the country cannot be considered adequate.Thus, there appears to be a good potential for the development of modern and energy-efficientstorage units.The NHB has taken a big step forward in establishing technical standards for cold chain projects.The following three standards have been developed with the help of experts in the industry, andare available to the promoters and designers of cold chain projects for reference:(i) Cold storages for storage of fresh horticulture products which do not require pre-cooling(ii) Multi-commodity cold storages for short-term and long-term storage of fresh horticultureproducts which require pre-cooling and varying storage requirements(iii) CA storages
Apart from these, the standards on ripening chambers and refrigerated transport have also beenrecently released for public review. It is worth mentioning that this is the first attempt by anyGovernment agency to formulate such standards for cold chain projects in India. Efforts are onfor establishing standards for ripening chambers and refrigerated transportation. Governmentagencies like the NHB, National Horticultural Mission and the Ministry of Food Processing havealso offered higher financial incentives for new projects as well as for expansion of existingunits. However, these projects have to be essentially based on modern and efficient technologyso that they are in tune with the new technical standards.A scientifically developed cold chain, designed to handle and preserve the quality and quantityof food products grown in the country, would turn into a ‘gold chain’ for the country.