Accelerating Cold Chain Technology Adoption during the pandemic
India is a storage of abundant natural resources, with huge pockets of arable land and an extensive coastline. Families in India survive on daily wages, and the present pandemic has disrupted the lives of many families.
Being one of the largest producers of medicinal and food products in the world. The major challenge that country face is providing healthcare and food products to the right people at the right place and at the right time.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the food grains production for India is estimated to hit a record high of 291.95 million tonnes which is 2.36% higher than the previous year 2019.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. India is no different in this aspect, where about 40% of the food produced is lost or wasted.
One of the crucial problems that Indian farmers come across in selling their produce - is dispatching and storing it at an appropriate time. Farmers face difficulty in finding cold storage near their farms or proper cold supply chain to get their products from farm to the market in a stipulated time-frame. When there is excess production, there is also an oversupply in the market, and prices come down to unreasonably low levels. To get better prices, farmers must move to large consuming areas.
The utmost consuming areas are food processing industries and big cities that are generally thousands of miles apart. However, moving agricultural produces across the length and breadth of the country or exporting with limited Cold Chain Logistics is not an easy job. Raw produces are usually perishables and must be preserved until it’s time ripe for realizing better prices or moving it over long distances. Additionally, changing lifestyle and demand for processed or packaged food is creating the need for cold storage solutions globally.
In this hour of a global outbreak, the wastage and loss of food could be minimized with a better prevalence of cold chain infrastructure in the country. Recently released India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) emphasizes the cold chain infrastructure and discusses the gaps and opportunities country can leverage from providing the cold chain facilities at the rural level as far as food security, improving farmer income and healthcare services are concerned.
There is a huge potential in the cold chain sector and the availability of cold chains at a decentralized level to tackle the food and vaccine loss & wastage should be pushed at the policy level. The outreach of cold chain infrastructure to farmers in India should be the target to ensure food security and healthcare in the country. This ambition of outreach can have multiple benefits to - farmers, optimized supply chain, reduced wastage & loss of food and medicine, reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the food waste, and food security for all in the county.
There are various ways to promote cold chains in the country.
# The removal of regulatory framework bottlenecks to ease of doing business in the cold chain sector can facilitate an innovative entrepreneurial spirit.
# There is a need for a business model for the cold chain industry in India that can be applied at the local level and that can ensure the involvement of the farmers.
# Thirdly, the industry should come with cost-effective solutions for temperature-controlled storage spaces and transportation as the initial investment required in the cold chain sector is huge.
# The optimization of the supply chain of perishables can ensure a reduction in food wastage and better utilization of food stock. Having a robust cold chain infrastructure with effective policy support and implementation strategy can go a long way in unprecedented times such as now.
Preparing for the Covid vaccine
According to market research firm IMARC Services, an increase in demand for cold storage solutions from pharma and other segments is expected to help the Indian cold chain market to post a 17 percent growth in 2021 to Rs 1.7 trillion. In addition to the demand for cold storage to house Covid-19 vaccines, cold chain service providers and logistics players are witnessing a surge in demand from allied industries and Pharma.
In recent weeks, two coronavirus vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – are revealed to be more than 90% effective in clinical trials. If they are approved by regulators, getting the vaccines into the hands will be a daunting task. Rolling out COVID-19 vaccines on a global scale will require an extensive expansion incapacity of the global cold chain, the linked system of infrastructure that allows a product to move from its site of production to final destination while remaining appropriately chilled.
"The vaccination against COVID-19 is an inflection point that will determine how cold chains are handled on a global scale for the next two decades," emphasizes Ligia Noronha, Director of the Economy Division at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In many developing countries, the technologies are sparse, and experts believe the demands of a COVID-19 vaccine could finally lead to long-neglected investments in their cold chains. So let’s see how we can leverage technologies to make the cold chain more robust.
How advanced technologies are helping Cold Chain Management
As per the Markets & Markets report, the global cold chain market size is estimated to be valued at $233.8 billion in 2020 and projected to reach $340.3 billion by 2025, recording a CAGR of 7.8 percent.
The Indian cold chain industry is still in a developing stage, with a large number of small and unorganized players. However, there is a clear shift towards the utilization of better-operating processes and technology. The government is laying more emphasis on developing the cold chain in India.
Let's take a look at the several technologies and possibilities that can be at play. Monitoring the cold chain will be the most significant priority of logistics organizations. Here the connected system of IoT (Internet of things) and sensors will help logistics organizations in maintaining and monitoring requisite temperatures.
Receiving data in real-time at scale will be a tough task for logistics organizations. Organizations have to create dashboards, which don't just monitor the supplies but also have immediate resolution plans in action. More remote technology will be required for any breakdown in the refrigeration system.
Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) will be deployed for remote maintenance of cold chain warehouses. Experts from one location can guide and help local teams with AR tools to immediately rectify a problem. AR/VR will also be needed for rapid training of professionals who may not have the experience of managing vaccine delivery. Location Intelligence will be a game-changer in the optimization of critical last-mile and networks, especially significant in small and rural communities that do not have access to the kind of medical equipment usually found in urban centers.
Blockchain technology is in place to prevent fake medicines from entering the supply chain. Additional manufacturing and 3D printing will be required to scale the production of packaging materials rapidly.
India needs to realize its true potential. It is time to reshape the traditional perishables business via integrated cold-chain solutions. Modernization and the utilization of technology will play a critical role.
The market segments that rely on cold chain services become increasingly diverse and geographically spread, new technologies that strengthen every link in the supply chain will continue to emerge.