The role of cold storage in human society is immense. In fact, the use of cold storage has altered human life in ways similar to the use of fire and the invention of wheels.
Cold Storage History
It is not even as if the concept of cold storage is a modern concept. Ice was harvested and stored by many ancient cultures with a view to using its cooling properties to preserve food. From the ancient Chinese to the old Romans and Greeks, people made use of ice to create a sort of a primitive form of refrigeration.
The industrial age and the rise of cities far away from where food was grown led to the demand for ice to preserve food. In the beginning natural ice was used, but this was an inefficient method and not very hygienic. The subsequent invention of mechanical refrigeration was the perfect solution to this problem.
Refrigeration – Evolution and Applications
Refrigeration in day-to-day life
Refrigeration that has evolved over the last century and a half has managed to connect far off centres of food productions with wherever the people choose to live. The invention of the personal refrigerator further accentuated the role that storing food in a cold enclosed environment has on our day-to-day lives.
Application of Refrigeration
However, the commercial use of refrigeration in setting up cold storages has had a humongous impact on society without our even realizing it. From the brewing industry and meat packing industry to the large scale distribution of perishable food stuffs cold storages began to be set up in a big way.
Other industries that found cold storages extremely useful were fur and woollen goods, plant nurseries and florists, sugar, chocolate and so many more. Society as it evolved in the post industrial world owes a great deal to the fact that the advent of cold storages improved people’s diets by making a diverse amount of food sourced from far and wide.
How Refrigeration Changed The Face of The USA?
The U.S. saw the use of refrigerated rail-road cars from the middle of the nineteenth century and actually helped establish major cities like Chicago and Kansas City as places specializing in the slaughter of animals for meat. Other centres specialized in other forms of food-California for various kinds of fruit, Georgia for peaches and Florida for citrus fruits.
Advantages of Cold-Storage Rooms
1. Better Economic Growth
Introduction of cold storage rooms meant that people could travel farther and farther for work and that in turn realty enhanced economic growth. This led to an overall improvement in the living standards of the world leading to the creation of a virtuous cycle of prosperity leading to more progress leading to even greater prosperity.
It is no coincidence that nations with well-established cold storage chains are much better off economically than the ones who don’t. This is the reason why improvement and augmentation of a cold storage chain is something most developing countries take very seriously.
2. Development In Agriculture
An increase in cold storage capacity could revolutionize agriculture, something that has huge significance for populous nations.
Among the advantages that it could provide are extending the shelf life of crops by greatly reducing loss caused by edible items going bad because of lack of cold storage facilities. That apart, the growers of food crops would hope to get a better price because of both the better state of their produce and the larger volume they are able to sell because of access to cold storage facilities.
3. Bargaining Power
The enhanced mobility that cold storage provides them lets them take their produce to markets that pay more. This improves their bargaining power.
4. Improve Shelf Life
By being able to store food and thereby extend the shelf life of food items, humans have been able to improve the supply of food to those who need it. This is because of both reducing food lost because of natural reasons and by reaching it far greater distances.
5. Boost Logistic Network
Among the easiest and cheapest way to augment food supply is by way of providing cold storage infrastructure around the world. This will increase the shelf life of food items, thereby reducing colossal wastage on a global level and also enhance logistical ability to transport food where it is required.
6. Better Employment Opportunities
Once a nation has sufficient amount of cold storage capacity, the major food processing companies of the world get interested in sourcing food produce from there. This entails massive investment by them in the process generating tremendous employment. The impact that the possession of a smartphone or access to the Internet has on human society is very dramatic, but it is nowhere as profound, as is the impact of having a network of modern cold storages.
What the introduction of cold storage also does is to make the whole agriculture more scientifically and professionally run leading to the accrual of many efficiencies of economies and scale. At the same time, the whole process of setting up cold storage leads to more jobs for many people. This is not just for the people employed directly in the cold storage industry, but also those involved in allied industries like transportation.
Why Developing Countries Need To Invest in Better Cold Storage Facilities?
Imagine the kind of impact that this is going to have on a populous nation. This is what cold storage does to human society. It liberates it and makes it more prosperous and dynamic. It creates wealth. This is true of the entire world, but has even greater resonance in the developing world.
As much as 30% of the food consumed in developing countries is perishable. In order for one to reduce post-harvest losses across every stage of post-harvest cycle, there have to be arrangements for cold storage made across the value chain. The impact of temperature control on the shelf life of fresh produce is significant.
It is of course ironic that a technology which has been around for so long and is as important for the progress of human society as roads, railways and tele-communications, should have not been accorded the importance it deserved in these nations. Many of the developing countries are in the tropical parts of the world where fresh produce goes bad much sooner than it does in Europe and many part of North America.
This would imply that there is far greater need for cold storage infrastructure in the developing world than there is in the industrialized and developed countries. If the presence of cold storages could have such a dramatic impact upon the economic and social lives of countries in the temperate regions of the world, their impact on tropical nations would be even more profound.
How Cold Storage Improved Economy of the US and Western European nations?
In the U.S. and Western European nations, cold storage has helped develop the supply chains to serve the meat, dairy, fish and horticulture industries, since the 1950s. The developing world on the other hand still lags in this aspect and that has a profoundly negative impact on their societies in terms of lost economic opportunity. This is turns has its impact on the standard of living of the people living in these nations.
Globally it has been found out that food losses amount to 25 to 50% of production in terms of the volumes, caloric and market value. The use of cold storage is widespread in the developed world. That is because it makes greater economic sense to avoid food losses than to look at increasing production year after year.
Why Do We Need to Build Cold Storage Facilities?
1. Lack of food
As many as 795 million people in the world do not eat enough to lead a healthy life. That should be priority number one. One of the major reasons that these people are in the situation that they are is the fact that the food does not reach them. The logistics of reaching food to them in a timely manner is all out of wonk.
2. Wastage of food
Millions of tons of food are wasted annually because of this. The food supply chain is broken in several parts of the world and sub optimally managed due to either lack of cold storage facilities or inefficient utilization of these. Did you know that approximately one thirds of global fresh fruits and vegetables are discarded due to deterioration in quality caused by lack of cold storage infrastructure?
Viewed objectively this is gross negligence on the part of the people responsible for managing such affairs. How can so much human suffering be allowed only for the want of a proper cold storage chain? About 1.3 billion tons of food grown for human consumption is lost or wasted on an annual basis.
3. Fight Poverty
Food wastage has a debilitating impact of human societies because it leads to endemic poverty and hunger. In India which has the largest number of hungry people in the world only 10% of the food that is produced has access to cold storage. You can imagine what a huge impact there will be on hunger alleviation if this percentage were to go up even a little bit.
Many more people would have access to cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables and be able to contribute in worthwhile way to the economy. When food is wasted the resources that went into creating that food like water, fertilizer, man hours etc. get wasted too. The impact of all these losses on society is not just immense, but eminently avoidable.
There are over 7 billion people who live on planet earth. Feeding them all is the biggest challenge there is. To that extent building up cold storage infrastructure is almost as important as creating communication infrastructure. Considering the fact that the population of the world is expected to reach 1 billion by 2100, there is great need to increase cold storage infrastructure around the world. The benefits of doing so are actually quite deep at different levels.
5. Improve Trade and Living Standards
Setting up cold rooms will enable nations to specialize in producing what they are good at enabling them to sell the surplus and import essential items not grown locally. The benefits that will accrue from this will be multi-dimensional. People around the world will have improved their standards of living by way of not only a better diet, but also enhanced income.
The more their economies will improve, the less will be the incentive for people to migrate from their native countries. Besides, nations will have fewer reasons to fight or squabble with their neighbours as they would rather be trading with them. The advancements in technology have made running cold storages cheaper and more efficient.
All the advancements that information technology has seen including the humongous growth of ecommerce will serve all of us far more effectively if there were more cold storage facilities around to give a much required fillip to international trade.
What is the Present State of Cold Storage Facilities?
Sadly cold storage network is far from adequate in a world struggling to feed its population. Considering the impact that a global chain of cold storage facilities can have on human well being in the years ahead, this should be made a top priority by nations across the world.
Cold storage technology is not at all difficult to implement and can be easily deployed in any part of the world.
While we harp all the time about the information technology revolution the fact of the matter is that food security is the biggest issue facing the world today. For all those people crying themselves hoarse about Internet connectivity and broadband, it is alleviating hunger from the word that should be top priority.
Building a fully functional and effective cold storage kick starts the economy of a region by enhancing productivity and exponentially increasing the size of the market for food produce. This has a directly beneficial impact on human society that far exceeds that of any other form of industrial or economic activity.
We are in the second decade of the new millennium and it is high time that a network of cold storage straddles the planet so as to ensure that all the food produced on planet earth is put to optimal use. Besides, this would help create zones of economic excellence across the world that would significantly improve the lifestyle of hundreds of millions.