FARMERS in ‘sun-rich’ countries are being encouraged to make the most of chilled food distribution systems powered by solar and solar-hybrid systems.

The International Solar Alliance and the University of Birmingham are working together on the Solar Cooling Initiative, which will help to spread the use of renewable energy-based cold-chains and cooling systems for agricultural use in countries in the Tropics, such as India, Egypt and Brazil.

In particular, ISA is collaborating with India's National Centre for Cold-chain Development to explore opportunities to research, plan and deliver such technologies in countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Agricultural economic growth in such countries depends upon connecting farmers with markets, and cold chains are vital to transport perishable produce which can otherwise suffer up to 40% loss in the journey from farm to market.

ISA director Upendra Tripathy said: “This initiative aims to enable millions of farmers by way of integrating cold-chains that work on solar fully or partially. The focus would be on farm-to-fork supply chains – reducing wastage and increasing farmers’ income, leading to economic wellbeing."

Birmingham Uni's Professor Toby Peters, said: "Application of clean efficient cooling in cold-chains is vital for delivering sustainable food. It enhances the financial security of farmers, growers and fishers, as well as improving food quality, safety, nutritional content and value to consumers. It can also achieve this sustainably with minimum environmental and natural resource impact. Cold-chains can be an essential contributor to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change."

ISA has already led efforts to build solar power into tropical agriculture in 28 countries which have joined its programme to install 270,000 water pumps running off renewable energy.