World Cold Chain Summit aims to reduce food losses (Part 1)

Carrier’s fourth annual World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Loss took to Vietnam in March and the official post show report is finally released – check it out...

C001David Appel, president of Carrier Transicold and Refrigeration Systems, gave an overview of how the company seeks to secure the future of food.

Following the inaugural session in London (2014) and sessions in Singapore (2015 and 2016), this year’s event – ‘Together Reducing Food Losses’ – was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. With a growing economy, rapid urbanisation, warm climate, inconsistent cold chain infrastructure and high consumption of fresh (perishable) foods, Vietnam was in many ways a perfect choice to bring together thought leaders from multiple disciplines to discuss challenges and solutions related to reducing food loss and waste.

Setting the scene

Jon Shaw, Carrier Transicold and Refrigeration System’s director of global communications and sustainability, kicked off day one of the Summit with a critically important point: of all the perishable food produced in the world today, only 10% is refrigerated, and the amount of refrigerated transport and storage assets in developing countries is one-tenth that of developed countries, which leads to three times more food loss.

Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted annually, with fruits and vegetables (ie. high-nutrition items) comprising 44% of that amount. We’re clearly missing an enormous opportunity to put the global food supply to its ultimate purpose – consumption – which in turn enables global citizens to thrive and lead productive lives. As Shaw noted, one high potential solution involves implementation of an improved cold chain, which as a specific Carrier pilot project in India shows, can sharply reduce food loss and greenhouse gas emissions together.

C011John Mandyck, former-chief sustainability officer at United Technologies, drew on material from the book he co-authored, Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger, and Climate Change.

In addition to tracing the history of the Summits, from goals to issue identification to solution development to implementation, Shaw displayed a breakdown of attendees (diverse leaders from multiple sectors) – noting that, “we have the right people in the room to make a difference in food loss and waste and hunger”. That has been one of the key goals of the summit from inception.

David Appel, president of Carrier Transicold and Refrigeration Systems, followed with an overview of how the company seeks to secure the future of food. The business covers the entire food supply chain, from farm to fork, through the production and service of refrigeration units for container ships, truck / trailers, commercial refrigeration, and food service. Appel noted that the company takes its role in protecting the world’s food supply very seriously, believing that by delivering improved refrigeration it can significantly help reduce food loss and waste, feed more people and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carrier is innovation-focused and is investing in the digital cold chain. Through advanced telematics, the company has the ability to track the temperature and geolocation of 13 million shipments around the world. Sustainability is also a key business driver. Appel noted that as the cold chain expands in less developed countries, we must ensure that greenhouse gas emissions don’t increase along with it but rather decline (in other words, we must do more with less – the notion of sustainable intensification).

As a tangible example of the positive impact of cold chain technology, Appel cited Carrier’s case study involving kinnow, a highly perishable citrus fruit (rich in micronutrients) that is grown in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. The 2016 case study measured the effects of cold storage and refrigerated transport of kinnow shipments from the growing region in northern India to markets in southern India – a 2 500km journey that can take four to five days with high spoilage rates due to fruit moving in open trucks exposed to high ambient temperatures and rough roads.

With pre-cooling and transport refrigeration equipment, the study shows that post-harvest losses could be reduced by 76%, with a 16% reduction in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT of CO2e). As a result, profits increased at each layer of the supply chain, more people were able to consume nutritious fruit, and the selling season was extended by up to eight weeks. In short, implementation of an effective cold chain provides a triple win – more people are fed, environmental impact (in the form of greenhouse gas emissions) is reduced, and profits along the supply chain rise.

John Mandyck, former-chief sustainability officer at United Technologies, followed Appel by drawing on material from the book he co-authored, Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger, and Climate Change. Mandyck notes that we have a ‘hidden’ source of food that can feed up to four billion global citizens. From an environmental standpoint, it can save the equivalent emissions impact of every car on every road annually, while saving enough water to fill the annual water needs for all of Africa. That hidden source is the food that we waste, about 30% annually across the globe.

Mandyck noted that while we grow enough food to feed about 10 billion people compared to the current global population of just over seven billion, we are successfully feeding only about six billion. And the challenge of sustainably feeding the world population by 2050 will only grow more intense with rising competition for resources and increased urbanisation. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities. This is a key issue for Vietnam, where the urbanisation rate is higher than that of China and India. Broadly, people are moving further away from their sources of food, which requires infrastructure investment to ensure that food supplies can be successfully transported to them with minimal waste.

C012Jon Shaw, Carrier Transicold and Refrigeration System’s director of global communications and sustainability, said that of all the perishable food produced in the world today, only 10% is refrigerated.

Where does global food loss and waste occur? Mandyck noted that 63% of global food wastage occurs at the production and distribution levels, while 37% occurs at the consumer level. In Vietnam, as in the US, the leading item in municipal landfills is food. And yet while 30% of our food goes to waste globally, two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies across the globe, lacking access to proper nutrition to lead productive lives. That wastage is also a serious climate problem, leading to 4.4 billion metric tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Mandyck also cited a compelling fact from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO): If ranked as a country, food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions behind the US and China. Those emissions also harm our oceans, which absorb one-third of global CO2 emissions. The resulting increase in acidity levels (26% over the last 200 years) threatens a critical source of food in the coming decades – particularly for the developing world.

Food is also critically linked to fresh water, which comprises only 1.3% of the planet’s overall water. Since agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water supplies, and we waste roughly 30% of our food, it’s more than appropriate to note that food waste is water waste. For perspective, Mandyck pointed out that the water we waste in food annually is greater than the annual irrigated water use of any nation on Earth.

Clearly food waste is a pressing global challenge on many fronts, but it must also be viewed as a tremendous opportunity for social and environmental progress as the population surges toward 10 billion by 2050. As Mandyck advised, to address this opportunity, we must collaborate – connecting thought leaders from multiple sectors who often are working in silos – and we must use technology to sustainably extend the world’s food supply to feed more people. Carrier is working to do both through the educational and connective power of the World Cold Chain Summits as well as through innovation in refrigeration to safely deliver more food to more people.

The innovation aspect is key, as it is natural to assume that an expansion of refrigeration units around the globe will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The benefit of reducing emissions by preventing food loss and waste through an expanded and improved cold chain, however, outweighs the associated increase in emissions by a factor of 10 to one. As Mandyck concluded, this proves that an expanded cold chain throughout the developing world is an essential strategy in the quest to sustainably feed the planet, and it makes him optimistic that we can uncover this vast, hidden source of food.

Read Part 2



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