The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has released a new report calling on Governments and NGOs to focus investment in developing economies on better refrigeration in order to help alleviate world hunger.

About a quarter of food wastage in the developing world could be eliminated with better refrigeration equipment, said the report, which urges immediate action to encourage the roll-out of sustainable cold and frozen supply chains in order to prevent unnecessary food loss and improve global food security.

Some key statistics released in the study show that up to 50 per cent of fruit and vegetables are lost in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. The African nation of Tanzania sees 25 per cent of all milk produced in the wet season end up as wastage, while 97 per cent of meat sold warm in the country has never been properly refrigerated.

“Hunger, as well as illness from poor quality food, continues to be a significant problem in many parts of the world, and this is potentially set to get worse as global population rises,” said Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

“Governments and aid agencies simply funding the production of more and more food which is then spoilt and discarded is a poor use of the money, often from taxpayers or donations, and does not provide a long-term and sustainable solution to the problem of global poverty and local self-sufficiency.”

Although Fox said that enough food is produced for humanity around the world, tragedy arises from unnecessary loss in developing countries due to inadequate infrastructure –  in particular a lack of cold and frozen supply chains.

Some 70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, have no access to electricity at all and 350 million people in India are situated off-grid in rural locations. Building on ambitions for electricity access and energy security is crucial, and Fox says the development of community renewable energy projects with energy storage would provide the cold and freezing needed for an effective roll-out of sustainable cold chains.

“It also presents farmers and rural communities with attractive business opportunities for development,” said Fox.

“Donor Governments, like the UK and USA, NGOs involved in development initiatives and retailers establishing supply chains, need to prioritise investment into affordable, reliable and sustainable cold chain infrastructure. This includes combining renewable energy with innovative technologies for producing both power and cooling, such as cryogenic energy storage using liquid air or nitrogen.”

The Institution’s key recommendations in this new report are:

1. Governments of newly emerging and rapidly industrialising economies must prioritise and support investment in cold chain infrastructure to improve food security, underpin development and help alleviate poverty.

2. Donor country governments and development NGOs must support and incentivise aid recipients to develop sustainable cold chains using renewable energy and waste cold.

3. The engineering community should come together to define in detail the potential opportunities a connected cold economy presents for the developed and developing world.