A 100 percent off-grid solar powered vacuum cooler. That is the aim of British vacuum cooler manufacturer Inviro Choice LTD (ICL), who are determined to build a new range of these machines this year and send them to test pilot sites based around the world.
Vacuum cooling is a cooling method used by thousands of flower and fresh produce growers around the world. The process extends the shelf life of fresh produce inevitably reducing waste. "Vacuum Cooling has proven to be much more effective than other cooling methods such as forced air cooling. Not only is vacuum cooling the quickest method of removing the field heat from the product it is also overall the most energy efficient". explains ICL's Managing Director Sean Roche.
Idea - 100% off-grid solar powered machines
The idea behind building 100 percent off grid solar powered machines is to reduce food waste and water scarcity in rural developing economies. Now, you might think, what has water and vacuum cooling in common? Sean explains: “Farmers use limited water supplies to grow fresh produce. In some case studies farmers are losing up to 50% of their harvest to field heat rot (post harvest loss). The figures are a tragedy considering the valuable water invested into the crops and the fact that hunger is also a major underlying issue in these areas. By reducing waste you relieve water stress and more produce has a good chance of reaching the consumer which in developing countries will reduce the amount of people going to bed hungry every night."
Sean gives an example: "In India over 194 million Indian people go to bed every night on an empty stomach yet India wastes 109 million tons of food every year. Estimated 40 million tons of food is produced annually more than the whole nation requires to feed everyone adequately. It's also estimated that 400 million Indians have no access to electricity or refrigeration. Another contributing factor is that in most developing countries the population is growing faster than anywhere else in the world therefore the demand for food is increasing. As climate change heats up the planet post harvest loss due to field heat will also inevitably increase. With many similar examples to this it is very clear that if we can reduce food waste there will be multiple benefits including reducing water scarcity, reducing hunger, increasing farmers profits etc."
But why off-grid solar powered machines? "In the rural farming communities, a reliable energy grid is generally lacking. Without an electricity supply there is no refrigeration. Without refrigeration the shelf life of freshly harvest produce is dramatically reduced to the minimum as the field heat encourages the rot to spread quicker inside the product. Therefore in continents where the climate temperature is increasing the problem of post harvest loss is also increasing."
So, ICL's goal is to make vacuum cooling available to every small hold farmer on the planet.For flower growers
Besides fruits and vegetable farmers, ornamental farmers can profit as well as the 100 percent off grid machines will run the same as the powered ones. "For over 30 years, vacuum coolers have been used for cut flowers and over the years it has become more popular. Some supermarkets are now even insisting that growers vacuum cool certain produce before they will stock it in their stores."
This year 2018 ICL is currently in the process of building their new range of 100% off grid solar powered machines that will go out to test pilot sites based around the world. "We are currently in negotiations to secure pilot sites for this year in order to test our machines in a number of strategic locations including Africa and Indonesia. After a successful collaboration with The University of Exeter's renewable department in 2017 we are currently collaborating with other universities from around the world in order to academically verify the performance of our new technology. The new design comes with many features including water recycling, battery storage, integrated cold storage and remote monitoring system. We believe that our technology can directly address a number of the sustainable development goals set out for tackling the world's most pressing issues by 2030."
UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
In the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to Sean, the deployment and use of ICL's product helps achieve the following:
Click here for more information about UN's SDGs.
SDG 1, No Poverty
– through increasing post-harvest produce marketing opportunities and thereby increasing farmer incomes and driving rural economic development;
SDG 2, Zero-Hunger – through increasing the volume of food supply;
SDG 3, Good Health and Well Being – through helping to ensure that food quality and nutritional content is preserved for as long as possible, thereby increasing health outcomes;
SDG 5, Gender Equality – through helping redress gender balance, not only in the cultural shift of attitudes towards women that will result from socio-economic development linked to farmer income growth, but also potentially in a release of women from the daily chore of fresh water sourcing that is a characteristic of their lives in Africa;
SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation – through providing a source of sufficient volumes of clean water to help with sanitation, personal and domestic hygiene, food preparation and cooking and crop irrigation;
SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy – through the provision of an affordable, energy efficient, sustainable Off-Grid solar powered cooling technology and cold store;
SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth – through the provision of rural employment opportunities in farmer cooperatives/associations and large-scale farm operations, as well as rural economic growth through the local economic impact of increased income to farmers;
SDG 13: Climate Action – through providing an Off-Grid solar powered cooling technology and cold store that does not utilise a climate damaging refrigerant, as well as reducing the unnecessary GHG emissions associated with the production of food that is not consumed.
ICL are based in Liverpool, United Kingdom, and have been established for 7 years, serving the vacuum cooling and refrigeration industries. They supply machines and other services to their customers all over the world. “Starting based in the UK we have grown the company over the past 7 years to supply new machines, parts, pre-planned maintenance and breakdown service in over 15 different countries.” According to Sean, what makes their machines different from any other manufacturer is that we have been working on research and development for the few years and innovational changed the design which we have proven up to 50% more energy efficient than any other vacuum coolers on the market. Our vacuum coolers are specifically built to each customer's requirements. This means that each and every machine are purpose built and run exactly as required by the customers. Any organization who chooses to buy a vacuum cooler from ICL can be sure the money spent will directly contribute towards our pilot produce and in the long run will help to improve and save lives of people in developing farming communities.
For more information
Inviro Choiche LTD (ICL)