A Tank of Cold: Cleantech Leapfrog to a More Food Secure World

In this report we propose a range of energy storage solutions that meet the criteria for use in the context of a developing economy. One contender in this regard is cryogenic energy storage.

There is much work to be done by engineers to provide affordable, safe, reliable, easy-to-operate and maintain clean technologies for the establishment of a continuous chain of temperature-controlled cold environments from the point of harvest to the home (the so called ‘cold chain’) in developing nations.

In particular the profession must focus on delivering appropriate energy storage technologies for use in off-grid and microgrid applications in developing nations which may not have a national energy network, thereby helping the delivery of both power and cooling in rural and urban settings.

Beyond the engineering however, empowering communities to implement cold chain infrastructure through access to appropriate finance mechanisms is the most critical need.

Key recommendations

Cold chains are an essential component in establishing an efficient food supply chain, but the current deployment model is unsustainable in the developing world where in many cases energy security is completely absent. We therefore make the following key recommendations:

  1. Governments of newly emerging and rapidly industrialising economies must prioritise support investment in cold chain infrastructure to improve food security, underpin development and help alleviate poverty.

    Providing farmers with opportunities to access higher-value market options for their produce is widely recognised as a key route to moving individuals and communities out of subsistence and poverty towards higher-level economic activity and increased well-being. For perishable produce, cold chain infrastructure is essential to ensuring that as much product as possible reaches the marketplace.

    Beyond this, encouraging and incentivising developments that are based on sustainable solutions, including renewable energy and clean technologies, offer opportunities for affordable routes to energy security and reduced environmental risk.
  2. Donor country governments and development NGOs must support and incentivise aid recipients to develop sustainable cold chains using renewable energy and waste cold.
    Increasingly overseas aid from donor governments and NGOs is being allocated to development projects that help individuals and communities become more self-sufficient and resilient. A sustainable cold chain solution based on renewable energy, clean technologies and waste cold recycling should be encouraged and incentivised.
  3. The UK engineering community should come together to define in detail the potential opportunities a joined-up cold economy presents for the developed and developing world.
  • The UK has a substantial heritage in the industrial gases and broader cryogenics sectors. As a leader in the field of the industrial application of cold, as well as in renewable energy utilisation, clean technologies and energy systems integration for efficient resource use, the nation is well placed to lead on work to tackle the technical challenge of equipment scaling and explore the environmental and societal benefits of establishing cold-chain economies.
  • Related links

    Read the press release:40% of fresh food produce in India is lost annually and cold chains are desperately needed to help stop it

    Read the press release: Tamil Nadu has a 97% shortfall in cold storage capa

    Read the press release: Rollout of cold chains is vital to help prevent losses of as much as 40% of fresh food produce in India

    Read the Institution News article: Our new food report is launched in India

    Read the Institution News article: Cold chain report continues to make headlines in India

    Read Dr Tim Fox’s blog post Food wastage: A warm reception for some cool thinking


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