Why sustainable cold chain in India

Agricultural cold chain is critically under-developed in India. According to the India Cooling Action Plan, this is especially the case for agricultural packhouses, refrigerated transport and logistics.

This has numerous socioeconomic and environmental impacts, including lower farmer incomes and high levels of food loss in a country with the highest number of people living in hunger, and one-third of all malnourished children.

The lack of availability of cold-chain is estimated to lead to an average of 15-20% loss of food in India. This amounts to about 50% of all post-harvest food loss in the country.

Moreover, today farmers receive less than half the wholesale price for their produce and for perishable goods.

Increasing access to cold chain infrastructure can help reduce food loss, expand market connectivity, protect the quality and safety of food, increase farmers revenues and improve the resilience of farmers and the rural communities in which they are located.

About the Prāna Project

In consultation with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of India, UNEP, Auroville and Tabreed India are developing and implementing the Prāṇa project, a demonstration project for integrated, market linked and localized cold chain services for the agricultural and vaccine supply chain in Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu, India.

Prāṇa is an ancient Indian concept referring to the creative energy that sustains all life forms on earth. This is the inspiration behind the project, which will connect water, energy, land use and livelihood improvement (WELL) by developing a sustainable rural cold chain.

The project will have innovative features to help increase the circularity and interconnectedness principles that are the heart of the project’s conception. The project is a first step of UNEP’s activities on sustainable cold chain in India and will contribute to the Cool Coalition’s objectives.

The project will be implemented in Villupuram, a district in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Why Villupuram?

Villupuram is one of the most economically deprived districts in the state of Tamil Nadu with a population of about 3.4 million and 1,431 villages. Here, agriculture is one of the main sources of livelihood. Villupuram is strategically located with excellent transport interconnectivity to major urban centres and transport hubs (air and rail) in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, Pondicherry. However, lack of cold chain infrastructure hinders end-to-end integration of the agricultural supply chain.

Increasing the availability of cold chain facilities at Villupuram district can allow farmers to shift to more remunerative crop patterns, reach other segments of the food system more effectively, and increase farmers’ incomes.

What will the Prāṇa Project do?

Innovative Technology

The demonstration project will consist of a net-zero carbon, net-zero water use, zero waste and a net energy surplus cold chain packhouse based on circular economy principles that can contribute to a more resilient local power grid.

The packhouse will be assessed alongside potential new rural livelihood initiatives such as agrivoltaics, mushroom cultivation and aquaponics and promote important agricultural innovations in a drought-threatened area, such as precision irrigation.

People Centred

The project will create new job opportunities and include capacity building, participatory, equitable and dignified employment and remuneration system. The project will upgrade existing skill sets (agricultural, administrative, marketing etc.) of employees and offer skill development training to the community. The project will be built with, and within, the community, which will directly benefit from the activities.

From food to vaccines

The project will explore possibilities to extend the cold infrastructure for other end uses like vaccine storage, access to refrigeration for local workers and a cooled village community centre.

Business Model

The project will be developed to demonstrate commercial viability and showcase a sustainable and circular model to deliver high-quality cold chain services that boost farmer incomes and strengthen livelihoods of the rural community.

The business model will be designed to be replicable and scalable under a participatory model with farmers and Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs).

For more information

To support the project or to be kept informed on its development please contact UNEP here.

Watch the video below to find out more!