CrossTree Blog

Food Loss, Policy, Strategy, Sustaining agriculture, Climate and anything else...

Apathy Quit India

Our Prime Minister Modi  spoke loud and clear at Madison Square today – he sought a mass movement called development, big efforts for small works, cleanliness is godliness, not to be shy of tough tasks, take challenges head-on, tardiness to go take a back seat!

Though I know he spoke his heart out and have no doubts that he won over many too, I fear how many will toe this line. Sometimes, a passionate individual, will tend to believe that passion is the norm with all. Then comes along a few shocks as one potters away… many an earlier smiling and cheering fellow will waylay or bide a moment to regress into old habits. I hope that will not be the case, and the excitement lasts long enough to become a new obsession.

This mass movement named Development is in truth a cry to shun Apathy, to stop looking for easy excuses that censure you from your path! And to believe that wherever your persist for excellence, whatever the result, your continued efforts make a difference.

Fire and Ice

In school, we learnt that the greatest boost to human evolution occurred when our ancestors learnt to manage fire. Domesticating fire for the purpose of cooking is considered the supreme causal factor for hastening the evolutionary development of homo-sapiens. Today, no human group eats all of its food raw.

If we were to feed on only raw uncooked food, we would need to chew for more than 9 of our waking hours each day.

Without fire, even if we had the chewing prowess of chimps, which delivers them a rate of 400 food calories an hour, after done gathering the food we would be chewing it for the rest of our waking hours. Either that, or an active brain of this size would not be sustained.

Cold-chain in relation to Food losses

Cold-chain does not directly reduce food loss - it is incongruous to proceed with that as the key premise. Cold-chain can only help take food to intended uses, preferably directly from farm-to-fork.

Food has one use, to be consumed, and food is lost when not consumed. Food loss can be reduced by facilitating that the produce reaches all logical and feasible end uses.

The idea of cold-chain is not to preserve endlessly, it only applies technology to extend the marketable life of a perishable product, for a finite duration.

Capturing Stranded Cold

Cold-chain has at its heart the concept of temperature control. This elicits many other requirements, some which are needed to counter the side effects of such thermal regulation. Yet, refrigeration is a primary need and this places a demand for energy, sometimes an inordinate amount, which is converted into the desired thermal change. Usually, the most common form of energy used is electrical, which in turn runs refrigeration equipment.

The highest energy load is from compressing a refrigerant, which is later expanded in the evaporator to affect the cooling experience. Electricity is available from our grid – thermal or hydel, from solar incidence, wind power, from fuel cells, fuel powered turbines and generators. This electricity can also be stored in rechargeable cells or batteries. Cold too can be stored!

The majority of energy expended goes into managing the refrigerant, expansion of which causes cooling. If a cold fluid can be accessed, without recourse to refrigeration, the entire energy load would drastically come down.

One cool energy source is geothermal water – underground water from deep wells are normally around 22°C to 24°C all through the year (temperature of groundwater is generally equal to the mean air temperature above the land surface. It usually stays within a narrow range year-round).

MAP and ODP glossary

imageModified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP) involves passive self-inducement of atmospheric parameters inside any enclosed package. Such specialised packaging exploits advantages of the normal respiratory activity of living fruits and vegetables which cause a change to air composition inside an enclosed pack [much like in a plastic film placed around our head]. The packaging material is designed with semi-permeable material so as to allow a minimal exchange of gases and oxygen with outside air, as a way of keeping the fresh food alive, yet extending its shelf life. MAP does not work to the exclusion of temperature control and both must be used hand-in-hand. Temperature control reduces the respiration rates to a level that can be safely handled by the MAP film or bag.