Heriot-Watt hosts influential workshop in Delhi



Heriot-Watt University is set to host a workshop in Delhi on how the use of refrigeration could help India’s farming and food sectors.

Known as Cold Chains - there is evidence to suggest refrigerated, temperature controlled houses, hubs and vehicles can significantly improve the protection and quality of food whilst moving from farm to consumer.

Currently as much as 40 per cent of food can be lost in India due to lack of cold chains and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi wants to double the income of farmers by 2020.

Now, Heriot-Watt will launch a top table discussion on 6 December with partners, including the University of Birmingham on how Cold Chains can help developing nations.

The discussion will make a major contribution to refining plans for sustainable cooling in India and other rapidly developing economies ahead of the world’s first international clean cold congress, hosted by the University of Birmingham in April 2018.

It builds on a major Indo-UK workshop last month at Birmingham, attended by senior officials from Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab as well as academics, industry and government from the UK.  

Project leader Professor Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham and a Senior Research Fellow at Heriot-Watt University said: “Last month with experts from India, we have laid the framework for the provision of clean and sustainable post-harvest food cold chain from the first mile to the last mile and the consumers. 

“We considered the major challenges and barriers surrounding this step change, such as the skills gap and suitable training, lack of robust protocols and standards, as well as the cultural and political environment. This roundtable event in Delhi is now a chance to further test and develop our thinking with a broader group in-country and continue to build the community to help deliver.”

The roundtable coincides with a higher education mission to India with senior figures from the University joining Deputy First Minister, John Swinney on meeting business leaders and representatives from the Indian Government.

Professor Richard Williams, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Heriot-Watt University said: “We are delighted to be hosting this important workshop and working with influential partners on a very important issue for India’s rural and food industries.

“The aim of the event is to update on where we are now and engage with senior representatives of Government, farmers, academia and industry on this important project.

“We will be exploring a number of ideas around the importance of the Cold Chain. They don’t just reduce post-harvest food loss but allow farmers to earn more by maintain the quality of their produce and selling it further afield.”

Just 4 per cent of India’s food is moved through the cold chain and as much as 40 per cent of some crops is lost before reaching the market. Cold chains don’t just reduce post-harvest food loss, but also allow farmers to earn more by maintaining the quality of their produce and selling it further afield, especially when this means they can reach distant cities. They are seen as essential to delivering Prime Minister Modi’s challenge of doubling farmers incomes.

Professor Toby Peters added: “Our work during the workshop at the University of Birmingham represents a big step forward in tackling the issue of cooling for India and other rapidly developing countries sustainably.

“Cooling is the backbone of society and demand is growing fast, but it is energy intense and often reliant on diesel.  We need more radical innovations beyond electricity and batteries and new ways of working to ensure delivering cooling does not adversely impact climate change or the already high level of pollutions on our roads in our cities.

“We need to act urgently and create one community working collaboratively – not just in India, but around the globe. The opportunities offered in developing markets can encourage new thinking, business models and policy which can enhance economic wealth, cash flow and security for farmers and improve food quality, safety and value to the customer and achieves these with minimum environmental impact.”

A core objective is the development of living demonstration facilities of integrated clean cold technologies, and, working with farmer communities, the development of economic models to understand the envelope in which new technologies need to fit. A critical element in the new centres will be the engagement and outreach to small and marginal farmers.

Dr. Abhilaksh Likhi IAS, Principal Secretary, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of Haryana who joined the workshop and is attending the roundtable has announced the opportunity of setting up a first Regional Clean Cold Chain Centre in collaboration with the new Horticulture University in Karnal, Haryana.

For more information about the Universities Scotland and Scottish Government mission in India, visit studyinscotland.org or #ScotlandwelcomesIndia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.