TRAnsforming Cold Food Chains in INdia through Space ScIence and TechNologies - TRANSSITioN

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Management School


The United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to mobilise global efforts to 'transform our world' (UN, 2017) so as to address major challenges facing global society, such as achieving food security and nutrition for all (SDG 1, 2, 3, 8 &12). We will focus on India where agricultural sector which contributes more than 17.5% to its GDP, employs 250 million people and remains the backbone of India's rural population, which comprises almost 67% of the country's 1.3 billion population. Yet, most of India's farmers still remain under poverty. Merely 4% of India's food is moved through the cold chain compared to 70% in the UK, resulting in as much as 40% wastage, particularly in fresh fruits and vegetables, between farm and market. This reduces farmers' income, which in turn limits their capacity to invest and their incentive to grow more nutritious food. Whilst inadequate cold supply chain infrastructure results in large amount of wastage in fresh produce, inadequate value creation and the impact of climate change on agriculture productivity and food loss has led to increasing number of farmers suicide. Moreover, India has highest number of organic farmers globally but these farmers, who produce most of the country's high-value and high-nutrition foods, have little access to integrated cold chains. Indian farmers simply do not have financial resources to invest in precision agriculture and cold chain infrastructure development. With PM Modi's target of "doubling farmers' income by 2022", India necessitates a stronger case of technological intervention along with innovative business models and effective policies that double the income of farmers and maximise value for every stakeholder in the supply chain.

The project TRANSSITioN will use a food systems approach to identify relevant STFC and indigenous technologies for digitising small-scale agriculture production, connecting farmers to supply chain, reducing food loss and managing food surplus. We will also identify relevant business and supply chain finance models supporting such technological interventions and ways in which different actors across the cold food chain could be engaged to directly and indirectly shape development outcomes. We will create "Sustainable Cold Food Chain Incubator Hub" (TRANSSITioN Hub) in India built on STFC ground breaking technologies from RAL Space (Thermal modelling, remote sensing, drone applications, Infrared Thermography), cryogenics from ASTeC and Cryox, data science capabilities (big data analytics, artifical intelligence) of STFC and IBM Research at Hartree Centre, along with interdisciplinary team from supply chain management, business sustainability, political science, food science, agriculture and material sciences, international research and stakeholder collaboration.

The WPs will be applied to a set of two case studies starting from farms (organic and conventional) to consumption centre, co-identified with in-country partners. Hyderabad and Chennai region have been identified for the pilot project. Being host to companies such as such as Amazon, Flipkart, Jubilant Foods, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, this region has become a consumer centric food logistics hub. With an established network of 50,000 organic farmers, processors, technology providers and retailers the selected region strongly aligns with the core competencies of our research agenda. Unfortunately, this region also had the second highest number of farmers suicide in 2016. Project TRANSSITioN, therefore, aims to forge a sustainable framework to meet different economic, social and commercial priorities of varied stakeholders to usher socio-economic change through value maximisation.

Planned Impact

Our approach to transforming food systems is grounded in addressing sustainable livelihood, climate-resilient agriculture productivity, farmers connectivity to supply chain, improving resource efficiency and environmental performance of cold food chains.

Utilising STFC data science expertise in Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and IBM research expertise in decision support tools and apps development, the TRANSSITioN Hub will enable the co-design of evidence-based interventions in farming and supply chain practices. The impact of our engagement with the farming community around Hyderabad and Chennai cities in India will lead to a reduction in the vulnerability of small-scale farmers as well as the overall food system in India to both environmental and social drivers of change e.g. making smallholder household incomes and fresh (cold) food supply in India more resilient to climate change, whilst reducing reliance on the use of chemicals which are harmful to human health while also being the cause of GHG emissions. Smallholders and other marginalised groups will co-produce tools for precision agriculture, better organising crop production with respect to market demands and play a larger role in supply chain decision making processes, leading to improved standards and better market access.

STFC thermal modelling expertise from RAL Space along with cryogenic expertise from STFC ASTeC and Cryox in collaboration with Linde India will enable us to introduce to the Indian food chain state-of-the-art improvements based on cold food chain activities, that will minimize thermal losses and re-direct food surplus production towards value maximisation opportunities. This will be achieved in partnership with small scale farmers and their organisations by co-designing the interventions for minimising the food loss as well as utilising the food surplus. The lessons learnt from this intervention will be utilised for co-designing prototypes with stakeholders and Indian institutes for developing efficient insulation system and interventions for different stages of the chain (e.g. sun shades for on farm insulation, thermal insulated storage boxes or lids utilising sustainable materials for storage and transportation, designing thermal bridges, etc.). Once we have proved the proof of concept, we will also engage with financial institutions from both the private and public sectors to co-define successful business models and policies for large scale adaptations of such technological interventions. Networks of diverse actors (e.g. smallscale farmers, SMEs, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, government agencies and big players like Amazon India) will be able to apply such interventions (technologies with right business/partnership models) in policy, planning and practice.

Legacy & Capacity Building: This project will also: i) Produce on-line educational training material and videos for demonstrating the impact of the proposed interventions; ii) Feed into the development of curricula that support extension agencies to deliver services to smallholder farmers e.g. making new collaboration among IIT-Madras, NIT-Goa, Linde-India and CSA to develop technical training resources for research staff and graduate students across the region on low and high tech interventions for enhancing agriculture productivity and cold chain efficiency; iii) Develop new research skills and leadership training on successful business and public-private partnership models linked to SDGs in collaboration with BIMTech; iv) IP development and knowledge transfer opportunities for STFC community, e.g. new indigenous BIO phasechange material used for efficient thermal insulation that could be used by RAL Space in other thermal modelling projects; v) MoUs with public and private sectors along policy briefs.


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