The objective of the workshop was to co-design the implementation of frameworks for the provision of clean and sustainable post-harvest food cold chain. The latter is defined in the report "India's Third Agricultural Revolution- Doubling Farmers' Income through Clean Cold Chains" as an integrated and seamless network of refrigerated and temperature controlled pack houses, distribution hubs and vehicles used to maintain the safety, quality and quantity of food while moving it swiftly from farm gate to consumption centre. Such facilities, the report highlights, ought to be attractive to end users, civil society, government, policy makers and industry to ensure impact, legacy, and scalability.
In the above context, intensive brainstorming was facilitated in the workshop by academics, experts, and industry leaders with senior officials fromthe government of Haryana, Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh. The aim was understanding the barriers in the cold value chain from the first mile (farm) to the last mile (consumer) in accessing markets by small and marginal farmers. The aim was also to explore how improved and clean cooling technologies can be appropriately designed to enable such small and marginal farmers to avail opportunities for reaching markets with their horticultural produce, without loss of time so that their income is enhanced. Lastly, the workshop focused on the need for and role of area clusters and farmer producer organizations to drive such a supply chain with skilled manpower and innovative financing/ business models.
A critical component of the Workshop deliberations was operationalization of a series of in country/ in field living labs in the three participating states – Centres of Excellence, to research, test and demonstrate effective strategies as well as the affordable technology mixes for the total clean cold value chain. More importantly, these Centres of Excellence are expected to support sustainable knowledge transfer, capacity building, training/skill and marketing strategies to bring value in terms of income back to small and marginal farmers. In other words, a cold chain infrastructure that, with small/marginal farmers’ participation as well as appropriate technology application leads to zero emissions and is powered in place of conventional/polluting energies by renewable energy.
The International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) has estimated that if developing countries had the same level of refrigeration equipment as the developed, they would save 200 million tonnes of food or around 14% of their food supply. In India, for example, the NCCD calculates that the country has less than 15% of the refrigerated trucks it needs and less than 1% of the pack houses, the vital first stage of the food cold chain that pre-conditions the horticulture produce for onward transportation for fresh use or processing. This lack of infrastructure, it was deliberated in the Workshop, meant that just 4% of India’s food is moved through the cold chain as compared to 70% in the UK. Hence, the need for clean cold chains in markets such as India that have the potential to turn subsistence farming in horticulture into income enhancing agri-business just as the Amul Dairy Cooperative success story in India demonstrated years ago.
In the above context, Haryana is a landlocked state in northern India that during the last ten years has doubled the area under horticulture crops such as fruits, vegetables, spices, medicinal plants, flowers and mushrooms and intends to raise the production three times by 2030 from the current 70.24 lakh metric tonnes to over 200 lakh metric tonnes. The State boasts of six Centres of Excellence (built under the Indo-Israel Work Plan) for vegetables, fruits, potato, guava, mango and pollination support through bee keeping. These are supplemented with backward and forward linkages through subsidized farmers’ activities being undertaken under the Government of India’s Mission for Integrated Horticulture (MIDH) in areas such as quality planting material, protected cultivation, micro irrigation, solar power supported water tanks, and human resource skilling.
As a stepping stone to strengthen horticulture related research and development activities, a new Horticulture University is in the process of being set up in the state in District Karnal. Its bedrock are international collaborations in sunrise food sectors with reputed universities such as Wageningen, Netherlands. More recently, a Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed by the Department of Horticulture with the Agricultural Skill Council of India (ASCI) to expand the base of horticulture related skills in the rural areas of the State in conjunction with the Horticulture University.
Haryana has also launched an innovative Crop Cluster Development Program to organize approximately 13,000 horticultural farmers in 350 horticulture villages integrated into 140 clusters. The objective is to speed up adoption of relevant and cost effective post-harvest management technologies in these clusters through logistics hubs (pack houses for grading, sorting and packing) and refrigerated transport managed by farmer producer organizations (FPOs).
In the backdrop of such robust horticulture infrastructure in the State, the workshop mooted the examination of setting up the first Regional Clean Cold Chain Centre (I4C) in collaboration with the new Horticulture University in Haryana. Its modelling, it was suggested, could be benchmarked on the successful Indo-Israel Centre of Excellence on Vegetables at Gharaunda, District Karnal. Besides, it could be converged with other innovative initiatives such as the ambitious Crop Cluster Development Programme. A critical element delineated in the functioning of this centre will be its outreach to small and marginal farmers in the state, for purposes of feedback and appropriate technology application.
The workshop deliberations were not just an exercise in theoretical brainstorming. Focus on the ‘first mile’ and doubling farmers’ income was coupled with engaging discussions on the importance of the ‘last mile’ and the market place. Besides, it was an extremely useful forum to scope the ‘living lab’concept, set identifiable next steps with requirements and deliverables to reduce post-harvest horticulture crop loss through a smart and sustainable energy system.
- Agriculture Development