Chilled air cheaper than diesel for India food transport

India, where half the nation’s fruit and vegetables spoil before getting to market, could reduce food waste by refrigerating vehicles with liquid air at a fraction of the cost of using diesel engines, a report said.

The liquid air would help fill a gap in supply of chilled transportation, according to the study by the London-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers released today in New Delhi.

Developing countries, lacking reliable electricity grids used in richer countries, often depend on diesel generators to chill food-supply vehicles. India could leapfrog a generation of cooling infrastructure by adopting renewable energy and so-called cryogenic technologies, according to the report.

India is forecast to spend $15 billion to 2019 on cooling infrastructure as rising incomes and urbanisation raise demand for fresh produce, meat, fish and milk, the institute said.

Trucks and rail containers fitted with engines that run on super-cold fuels could transport produce at between a fifth and a third of the cost of using diesel for the same job, said Tim Fox, the organization’s head of energy environment. Agriculture accounts for 13 per cent of India’s diesel consumption currently.

India has spare liquid-nitrogen output capacity of about 3,500 metric tonnes a day, according to the report. That’s enough to power 29,000 refrigerated trucks, or more than the market’s current unmet needs.

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