Can cold storage rooms add value to Indian farmers?

This article is about farming in Gujarat (India) and how Farmers could benefit from using cold storage rooms.

Talking Farming Numbers (Gujarat)
Gujarat is one of the 29 states of India and has a population of more than 65 million people and a surface of 196.024 km². (Population Gujarat, 2015) Ahmedabad is its central city. Gujarat is divided 26 districts with each their own typical crops. The total yearly production of fruit is more than 8 million Tons and the production of vegetables is more than 11 million Tons a year. (Pandya, 2014) Next to fruits & vegetables flowers and spices are also cultivated.

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Current Value Chain for Fruits & Vegetables (Gujarat)

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As shown above, there is a complicated value chain for fruits and vegetables in India. Sometimes the crops will be traded more than 6 times before it reaches the end-consumer. The multiply factor between the selling price for the farmers and the end-consumer price can be more 10!

The current supply chain for national trade does not require cold storages. All trading of fruits and vegetables is done within a maximum of three days. Most of the harvesting will be finished during the mornings. Directly after harvesting the crops will be graded and sorted. The best quality products will go to the APMC’s and will be traded to wholesalers. The lower quality products will be traded directly at local markets. The APMC’s and wholesalers trade the harvests on the same day they are harvested. Dependent on the buyer, the harvest load will be transported by night in unrefrigerated trucks. The transport happens always at night because of lower temperatures.

APMC: law
The APMC act is established to ensure that intermediaries do not compel farmers to sell their products at the farm gate against extremely low prices. All food products should first be brought to the market yard and then be sold through auction. (Wikipedia, sd)

Mandi’s
‘’ A State is geographically divided and Markets (Mandis) are established at different places within the states. Farmers have to sell their products through the auction in Mandi. To operate in Mandi, a trader has to get a license. Wholesale, retail traders (e.g. shopping mall owners) or food processing companies cannot buy farm output directly from the farmer. They have to buy through the Mandi.’’ (Wikipedia, sd)

Do cold storage rooms have value in the Value Chain?

1. Let’s start with Definitions of Cold storage, cold room and pre-cooling
A cold storage is a space in a building where crops can be stored for a longer time. The main purpose of a cold storage is to store crops for a longer time to fulfill the different demands during the year and to get a better price for the crops. To optimize the performance of cold storage machines that can control the ideal humidity are essential. Because every crop has a different ideal cooling temperature and humidity, cold storages are used for only on crop at the same time.

A cold room is a storage space that is used to keep products cool between trading. Products stay in general for a maximum of three days in the cold rooms. Cold rooms are in general not equipped with humidity control. Cold rooms are used to cool different types of fruits and vegetables at the same time.

Pre-cooling is a technique were the crops within 4 hours after harvesting gets cooled. Several studies showed that when pre-cooling is applied on crops the shelf life will extend significantly.

2. Current cold storage presence Gujarat
Nowadays there are around 450 cold storages present in Gujarat. Mr. Ashish Guru, president of the Gujarat Cold Storage Association explained there are around 216 cold storages for potatoes and another 25 are coming up.
Gujarat is the only state that offers power subsidy for cold storages. (Agriexchange, sd) Potato can be preserved for more than 10 months in a cold storage. The existing cold storages in Gujarat have an average stock capacity of 2000 MT. (business-standard, sd)

3. Potatoes, Onions and Egg-plant (Brinjal)
As explained above, there is already a lot of cold storage present in Gujarat for potato. Onions need to be dried for at least 5 weeks and by that time they will be traded in the market. Brinjal has a too short shelf life in a cold storage with a maximum of 14 days under optimal conditions.

4. How to select other fruits & vegetables for cold rooms?
There are five requirements for the selection of a crop that is suitable for cold rooms:

The shelf life of the crop will be significantly extended when they will be cooled
The production volume of the concerning crop
The average price must be above a certain price per kg per volume If the crop has a low volume/price ratio a cold storage is not economical because of the high power costs.
The price fluctuation during the year
The harvest season of the crop. This in combination with the shelf life is an important parameter.
The cooling temperature.

Selection of vegetables
In the image below the 6 most cultivated vegetables of Gujarat are displayed. The little squares in the left beneath corner show the maximum shelf life when the crop is stored in a cold storage. In the thermometer the best cooling temperature is displayed for each crop. In the beams on the right of every vegetable, the total annual production in metric TON (1000kg) of Gujarat is indicated.

The Shelf life, temperature and production

can-cold-storage-rooms-add-value-sinhboard-magnesium-oxide-boards-blogpicture-vegetables

  1. Onion – 2. Potato – Cabbage –  4. Tomato –  5. Brinjal (eggplant)-  6. Okra

The most cultivated crop in Gujarat is Potato with more than 2294 Tons in 2014. Onion has the longest extendable shelf life and Brinjal requires the highest cooling temperature.

These can deliver better revenues for Farmers. Cabbage has a really long shelf life so it is appropriate for cold storage. The shelf life of tomato can be extended with a month during cold storage. Cabbage is a second possibility.

Selection of fruits
For the selection we focused on the 11 most cultivated fruits in Gujarat. Cashew nut is also mentioned in the statistics notwithstanding it is not considerate as a fruit.

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  1. Datepalm – 2. Coconut – 3. Custard apple – 4. Pomegranate –  5. Guava –  6. Papaya –  7. Mango –  8. Lemon – 9 lime –  10. Banana – 11. Chiku – 12. Aonla(indian gooseberry) – 13. Cashew nut

Maximizing Farmer revenue show citrus and pomegranate are most suitable to be used for cold storage. Compared to the other fruits they also have higher shelf life.

Conclusion do Cold Storage rooms add Value?

1. Reduce Fruit en vegetable losses in India
Gujarat, belonging to the top 10 horticulture producing states in India, loses almost Rs 11,400 crore worth of fruits and vegetables after harvest every year due to lack of proper storage facilities. That is more than 1,7 billon euros. (Newsservice, 2013).
The losses experienced by for example Tomato Farmers are caused by damages, sorting, pests and diseases. In the field study our company has conducted, it turned out that only 1-2% of the losses at the farmer’s site are caused by over-ripening.
Farmers bring their crops sometimes directly to the collection centers, bigger farmers bring it for them or they sell it directly to supermarkets or CPC in big cities. Trucks are used to transport the crops. The trucks are not refrigerated and have in general an open trunk. This trunk will be covered with jute to protect the crates or boxes filled with fruits or vegetables.

Losses caused by bad handling during sorting are evident. To reduce these losses cold storages and cold transport should be added to the value chain.

2. Add cold storage capacity and start with Tomato, Pomegranate and Citrus

3. Get better prices for farmers
On an average basis the farmer is only able to receive 1/4th to 1/3rd of the final retail prices. During low season, when end-consumer prices are high, the farmers do not get higher returns on their products.
Farmers can start influencing daily market prices into their benefit when they influence timing of selling and quantities of selling.

Cold storage units are essential for this!

Make in India: Cold Storage Rooms | part two

In the previous article, insights were give about material use and insulation capabilities to build adequate cold storage rooms.

In the concept of cold storage pre-cooling is essential. Pre-cooling helps to maximize results for both earning capabilities of Farmers and costs. In the current article I want to share some ideas about how to furnish the cold storage room itself. Furnishing well will influence the extension of the ripening period of a crop positively. The most important suggestions to take into account are listed below:

Use of crates

For the storage of the crops it is recommended to use well ventilated pallets, crates, boxes or bins.

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Movement of air through the Cold Room

Why? It is important that the cold moving air can easily go through to remove the heat coming from the products. For best result the crates should be stacked so that the moving air can contact all the container surfaces for adequate and rapid cooling. Ventilated crates can be used as they speed-up the cooling rate. The cool air should be divided equally over all crates that are placed.

Location of crates

The storage crates must be stacked to form air-channels which are 4 to 6 inches wide (10 to 15 cm) to help direct the air movement. There should also be space between the product and walls to allow refrigerated air to absorb the heat of conduction through the walls. In the figure below an overview is given of how the crates should be placed in the IGLOO design. A passageway is created in between the crates. This location set up will result in a better air circulation and the crates can easily be replaced or taken out when crops need to be sold. (Board, 2010)

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Overview of the location of the crates

Maximize capacity in the cold room
Different concepts are used the get the most out of the crate positioning capacity. The dimensions of the crate are a given (WxHxL):360x305x542mm. Since the roof height of our SINHBUILD concept is 2440mm, the maximum amount of crates that can be stacked is seven (height of 2135mm). We favor the concept in which three lines of crates are taken into stock. In between the crates a space is created of 10cm to allow refrigerated air to absorb the heat from any direction. On the right two lines of crates are placed on their long side. On the left one line of crates is place on their short side The passage width between the lines of the crates is 668mm which gives the opportunity to move a crate easily through (a crate is 542mm on the long side). The total amount of crates that can be stored is 210.

Shape and dimension of used crates
As mentioned before it is recommended to use ventilated pallets, crates, boxes or bins. Jut or nylon bags are not recommended since these materials won’t ventilate in a proper way. Further exact dimensions are not required because the only requirement is that the storage should be ventilated well.

Storage after harvest
It is recommended to transport all harvested crops to the cold room as rapidly as possible. For fresh crops one hour time loss at the field by a temperature of 35°C between harvest and pre-cooling can reduce quality as much as 20 hours in storage under proper conditions. Delay in pre-cooling or cooling overall results in loss of moisture from the product, causes weight loss and combined with active micro-biological organisms result in deterioration of quality and value loss.

Use of Cold Room Door
The cold room door is the only connection to the outside temperature and is thereby the most important point which should be taken into account considering cold air loss. The loading rate is another factor referring to the amount of use of the door. The higher the loading rate, the more energy loss or cold air loss is created. Generally the refrigeration system capacity is based upon 4% to 5% loading rates of the total cold store capacity. The loading pattern is also a design consideration for sizing the storage chamber capacity for optimal utilization and performance. It is therefore recommended to store all crops only once a day (as little as possible). The frequency of entry is then reduced to its minimum. Additionally it is recommended to store the crops in the morning or in the evening since the outside temperatures are relatively lower at these times. In Gujarat at noon the outside temperature is at its highest point which will result in a bigger delta T (temperature difference) between inside and outside and additionally more energy loss. (Board, 2010)

Conclusion

  • A perfect cold storage room needs a pre-cooling area. In the cooling area itself crates are used. Most important feature of crates is the support of ventilating cold air throughout the cooling unit.
  • The crates should be stored in a way that supports air flow.
  • The crates storage plan should allow maximization of number of crates.
  • The cold room door, and the use of it, is very important as it may ruin the efficiency of your unit.

Cold Storage Rooms: reduces 40% of harvest loss

Withindia Building Solutions has signed a technology deal with the Dutch company RC Panels late 2013. This deal was designed to transfer production technology for sandwich panels and machinery to its Withindia Facilities in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India).

Thereafter Withindia has set up its production site in Ahmedabad, received the necessary Factory License, installed the production line and joined ‘Make in India’ as of February 2016. Today we produce SINH Panels for the Indian market.

Now you could think: so what?

Well, using sandwich panels in building, will help Farmers and their communities to earn more money. How?

The Indian Government has developed several programmes to support Farmers and Rural communities. An example: in Gujarat a new Initiative has been launched to support every village to build a small cold storage warehouse or cold room. This room is the first step in the logistics chain from harvest to market. In it the temperature is kept between 6C and 12C to protect the crop from rotting.

Currently 30-40% of the harvest is lost, mainly in between the time of harvest and the delivery at the market. Sometimes logistics fail, sometimes the sun does its work or animals ate part of the harvest.

When you know there are 18.500 villages only in Gujarat, then you could see the magnitude of such an Initiative.

Our company completed a study to see how we could support the Initiative of Indian Government. In this article I want to share our findings about basic steps to make cold rooms.

The main building element to realize a cold storage room is a sandwich panel. One of the sandwich panels available in India is SINH™ Panel. This sandwich panel consists of two layers Magnesium Oxide Boards and in between the boards an insulation material (see figure below). The panel can be designed for walling, flooring or roofing.

 

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Example of SINH™ Panel

Using Magnesium Oxide Boards into these panels, gives you benefits of light weight, fast construction, dry construction (saving water) and ease-to-work with.

1. Insulation material

Most common insulation materials currently used in the Gujarat market are Cellular Glass (CG), Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), Extruded Polystyrene (XPS), Mineral Wool (MW), Polyisocyanurate (PIR), Polyurethane (PUR) and Kooltherm (bouw, 2015) (Association, 2007)

In the table below you find these insulation materials displayed and compared with each other based on their Lambda value (thermal conductivity value). Notice: the lower the lambda value, the better the material insulates and the less material is needed to realize the same amount of the R-value (Thermal resistance value).

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cg= cellular glass, EPS= Expanded Polystyrene, XPS= Extruded Polystyrene, MW=-Mineral Wool, PUR= Polyurethane

It can be concluded that Kooltherm is the best material with the lowest thermal conductivity and thus the best R-value. PIR and PUR insulation can be considered as the same. PIR is only a better version of PUR in certain aspects. PIR has a slightly better insulation value and is more fire resistant. The same goes for EPS and XPS looking at its insulation value. Mineral Wool is too soft to apply into the SINH-Panels.

2. Thickness of the panel

Material thickness also contributes to Thermal Resistance. Thermal Resistance is a measurement of how the Panel resists Heat Flow. Thermal resistance is measured by the R-value. You could use the Cold Storage Calculator from the company Alfa Laval to make calculations of the cooling (http://cold-room-calculator.soft112.com/)The calculator takes the following main parameters into account: room temperature inside, outside temperature, dimensions of the cold storage room, amount of storage and entering temperature of the crops.

Below a table is shown with the required capacities for de cool system that should be implemented. Also insulation capacity losses are shown between different wall thicknesses. Using this information could give you an approach of the material thickness you should consider.

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The table above shows that EPS has a lambda value of 0.036 W/mK. Therefore, the wall thickness, using EPS insulation should be 150mm for the wall (external use), 150mm for the ceiling/roof and 125mm for the floor.
Using PUR, the thickness should be considered 100mm thickness for the wall (external use), 100mm ceiling/roof and 100 for the floor.

The recommended thicknesses mentioned above are based on a cold storage temperature in the range of -4 to 2 degrees inside. All other major parameters that were used in the previously mentioned calculator are not taken into account in this table above.

Main finishing options for Magnesium Oxide boards

Another question came in yesterday about the finishing of Magnesium Oxide Boards in case of exterior walling.

The most common exterior surface finishes are: Paint, Plaster and Tiles.

Before you start applying the finishing material:

When the MgO boards are fitted, the boards should not be exposed to the weather for a long period of time. Both heavy rains or high dryness will have their negative effects on shrinkage or expansion of the boards. These will cause cracks later when the finishing material is applied.
The MgO boards should also be clean and dry before starting finishing.
Small damages to the MgO boards should be removed or repaired.

Paint

Paint can be applied easily to the MgO boards. For exterior use, the boards should be primed with 1 or 2 coats of Plaster/Masonry Primer before coating with exterior quality paint. The primer works here as a sealant and water repellent that protects the ‘open’ structure of Magnesium Oxide Board.

Plaster

Cement plaster can be applied to the surface of the MgO boards. All joints between the Boards must be meshed with Fibre Mesh (preferably 4mm x 4mm) or wire scrim prior to applying the cement plaster coat.
After plastering, a sealant primer should protect the Plaster.

Tiles

Tiles may also be applied to the surface of the MgO boards. In this case it is recommended to roughen up the surface of the Board and put a suitable bonding agent (glue) on it before tiling. The amount of Glue has to be affluent.

When the tiles are applied for walls higher than 10 feet, these tiles should not be bigger than 1,3 Square Feet and thicker than 12mm.

20 Smart cities chosen in India

Indian Government has announced by word of the Minister of Urban Development its list of 20 Smart Cities from 11 States and Delhi.

20 Winning cities have proposed a total investment of Rs.50,802 cr (7,6 billion Euro) over five years with all the cities proposing Public-Private-Partnership as a major vehicle of resource mobilization. A total area of 26,735 acres has been identified by these cities for making them smart through necessary interventions.

Elaborating on the advantages of Smart City Mission, the Minister Naidu said that this leads to integrated urban planning by addressing the issue of infrastructure, land use planning, transport, urban design and architecture in a holistic manner unlike in the past. Stating that building a smart city is not a destination but a series of small steps in that direction.

The Smart City plan was launched to support the fast urbanization and sustainable growth in India. Studies show that India has to built between 700-900 million sqft of residential and commercial space a year until 2030: equivalent of adding more than 2 Mumbai’s every year.

Among the 20 Smart Cities are: Jaipur, Udaipur (Rajasthan), Surat and Ahmedabad (Gujarat).

The list of Smart Cities is published by the Press Information Bureau on Jan 29, 2016.

Fungus and Magnesium Oxide boards: happy marriage?

Last week we were called by an Indian architect, who wanted to use SINH™ boards to cover air-condition piping’s. He wanted to know if Magnesium Oxide Boards would host or stimulate the growth of fungi in his construction.

As our company has not yet conducted a test to cover this issue, I started to search the internet for answers. First of all, you should know that there are thousands of species of fungi. Most of them are unharmful, only few of them cause illness and allergies.

Like Duane Craig (2009), who is a blogger for The Construction Informer, wrote in 2009: “Most of the time even though mold is present in our buildings it isn’t actively growing to the extent we can see it with the unaided eye. Then too, mold growth is greatly affected by humidity and since many of our buildings are air conditioned, or use dehumidifiers, the opportunity for mold growth is diminished.”

I also came across an article of Pamela Hargrove (2004): Testing for Fungal Growth in Building Products: a collaborative Effort. This article shows main tests available and developed in cooperation with ASTM, the American Society for Testing and Materials.

To summarize, there are 3 main test methods for the panel products industry available:

1. ASTM G21 – is a method used to test synthetic polymers including poly(vinyl chloride) and plastics.

2. ASTM D 3273 – is a standard Test Method for Resistance to Growth of Mold on the Surface of Interior Coatings in an Environmental Chamber. This standard is for fungal growth in soil, contained in the humidified environmental chamber. Air circulation within the environmental chamber circulates the fungal spores in the chamber to the vertically suspended samples four inches over the soil. Weekly photographic images of each sample are emailed to customers so they can follow the progress of the testing.

3. ASTM D6329-98(2008)– Standard Guide for Developing Methodology for Evaluating the Ability of Indoor Materials to Support Microbial Growth Using Static Environmental Chambers. The test is designed to run for 12 weeks, four times longer than ASTM D3273. The quantitative assessment here is a count of the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) taken from samples collected during weeks 1, 6 and 12, and compared against the baseline level of CFUs at the start of the test.

Some other standards (not limitative) that have been published for testing of materials for resistance to fungi are:

  • MIL-STD 810E – Method 508.4 – Determines whether fungus will grow on a device exposed to warm, moistured air in the presence of fungus spores. The MIL-STD 810 involves spraying the test items with a composite of fungal spores and supporting the test items in the environmental chamber for 28 days.
  • ASTM C 1338 – Fungi Resistance of Insulation Materials and Facings
  • ISO 16869 – Assessment of the Effectiveness of Fungistatic Compounds in Plastics Formulations

To address the need for uncoated building products including gypsum board and cement board, a task group was formed in February 2004. The proposal in 2011 for a new test method ASTM WK32079, (Test Method for Determination of Mold Growth on Building Products designed for Exterior Applications) is one of its results.

In conclusion:

  1. Each test has its own strength and limitations;
  2. There are no special designed test methods dedicated to test fungi resistance of Magnesium Oxide Boards (external & internal applications);
  3. To limit fungi growth best is to manage humidity. To manage humidity, the architect and builder have to pay attention to building design, product choice, good construction practices and proper maintenance;
  4. Characteristics of Magnesium Oxide Boards as a material do not favour the growth of fungi due to its open molecular structure and high permeability to vapour.

 

My answer on the question “Fungus and Magnesium Oxide boards: happy marriage?” would therefore be “NO”.

Magnesium Oxide Boards: Innovative solution for Architects and Designers?

Last December 2015, our company had a stand at Credai Gujarat Builders Exposition in Ahmedabad.

A lot of visitors were very eager to know more about Magnesium Oxide Boards. So that is why I hope this article may provide some clarity.

Magnesium Oxide Boards are usually referred to as MgO boards. It is a factory made product. Most manufacturers can be found in China. Finding a trustworthy supplier can be a hassle and will consume a lot of your time.

The boards are made of Magnesium Oxide, a mineral bonded cement. This mineral supports a lot of important features like fire resistance, water resistance, its light weight, and resistance to mold and mildew. MgO boards are available in various thicknesses and sheet sizes. The board makes a hard sound when you rap with your fingers on it.

Magnesium itself is a silvery metal and is a solid at room temperature. It is lighter than Aluminium. As a metal it is mostly used in alloy form, particularly for lightweight high performance structures like airplanes. Pure Magnesium in its raw form is not stable –it burns. Magnesium Oxide however is the exact opposite: it is completely non-flammable and used for fireproofing.

Magnesiumcabonate is a stone-like material, which exists in large deposits as raw ‘rock’ and is mined like other minerals. It is ground up, crushed and calcined at temperatures between 450C and 900C. During a chemical process Magnesium Oxide is made. This is crushed into a powder with different purities. For usage in building applications purities between 80-85% are good enough.
Photo of Magnesium Carbonate (Magnesite)

Big raw deposits of Magnesium Carbonate can be found in China (80%), India, South Korea, Brazil, Turkey, Greece, USA, Canada and Australia. The deposits to be found around the world are so big that this resource will be with us for decades. In the MgO Board Factory Magnesium Oxide powder will be used together with some other additives as well. These include saw dust, Perlite and Magnesium Chloride. Also fibre mesh is added to build upon the strength of the board. MgO Boards can be used for various applications like walling, flooring, under roofing, ceiling, tile backing and underlayment, furniture and duct covering. In India very nice decorations are made with the boards as they are also very easy to (water) cut by CNC.

SINH™ boards used as duct covering bungalow in Bhavnagar (Gujarat)

When you start designing and use MgO boards, you will find numerous applications to choose from. Like its size (twice as large as gypsum boards) or its weight (half of cement fibre boards) or its water resistance (unlike like Plywood and Gypsum boards).

The MgO Boards also contribute to lower building cost (material, labour, energy):

  • The boards are use in dry construction so you can skip lorries carrying cement & water;
  • The boards enable light weight designs of roofs & floors which will lower your bills to steel constructors;
  • The acoustic capabilities will provide alternative material for ceilings;
  • The boards replace concrete and steel constructions for your roofing thus saving cost;
  • When you need a fire resistant construction you can design thinner layers than you normally would do with traditional materials.

Concluding when you are interested in applying this relatively new material in India, you might consider the following points:

  1. For which purpose am I going to use the MgO Boards?
  2. Can I build upon the specific features of this material?
  3. Can the board help reduce building costs when I design smartly?