Transforming food value chain

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to mobilise global efforts to transform the world 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 percent to its GDP, employs over 250 million people and remains the backbone of India’s rural population, which comprises almost 67 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion population. Merely 4 percent of India’s food is moved through the cold chain compared to 70 percent in the UK, resulting in as much as 40 percent wastage, particularly in fresh fruits and vegetables, between farm and market. A large amount of supply chain food losses occur due to insufficient cold-chain facilities. At the same time, increase in demand for fresh produce is leading to significant growth in this sector, which is increasingly relying on development of sustainable cold chain infrastructure. This solicits an increasing awareness about agri-food-logistics that can link with demand across regions mainly being a major contributor to disparity of prices. Efficient cold supply chain is expected to have a significant effect on the factor of shelf life and perishability, which influences the element in the price factor. This is why projects such as TRANSSITioN are expected to have significant influence on the development of sustainable agri-food supply chains in India.

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 increased the challenges. Moreover, India has highest number of organic farmers globally but these farmers, producing most of the country’s high-value and high-nutrition foods, have little access to integrated cold chains. Whilst more financial resources are required for precision agriculture and cold chain infrastructure development, India necessitates a stronger case of technological intervention along with innovative business models and effective policies to increase farmers’ income as well as maximise value for the stakeholders within the agri-food value chain. In order to address this, 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. The project has carefully chosen partners from industries, NGOs, logistics providers and farmer producer organisations which could possibly have technological, business operations, management practices and policy interventions to steer positive impact across the targeted agri-food cold supply chains.

This research aims to find ways to establish demonstration sites – TRANSSITioN Incubation Hubs – for the development of cold chains in India for fresh-food supply chains from farm-to-fork. The project aims to explore the potential use of advanced capabilities and facilities of the STFC (RAL Space, ASTec, Hartree Centre, IBM Research) including space thermal engineering, cryogenics, infrared thermography, data science capabilities to drive the research agenda. In addition, the research is leveraging on capabilities and expertise in smart sensor technologies, big data analytics in combination with low cost indigenous technology knowhow to achieve these objectives. The scope also includes identification of best supply chain configurations, management practices, and to explore new business models – such as relevant public private partnership (PPP) models. With an established network of 50,000 organic farmers, processors, technology providers and retailers, the selected region strongly aligns with the core agenda of our research. TRANSSITioN aims to forge a sustainable framework to meet different economic, social and commercial priorities of varied stakeholders to steer socio-economic change through value maximisation.

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