Dearman’s groundbreaking liquid nitrogen technology is carving itself out as a solution to help clean up polluted air. But of course, the innovative and versatile nature of the technology means it has a number of applications and Dearman is now taking on another major pressing issue: food waste.
The scale of the world’s food waste problem is truly staggering. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that one-third of the food produced annually across the world gets lost or wasted. This is a particularly acute problem in less prosperous regions, where farmers do not have access to affordable technologies to help them cool their harvests immediately and hence prevent a deterioration in quality of their produce.
In fact, of Africa’s 370 million tonnes of food wasted per year, three-quarters happens before the food even leaves production facilities. 90 million tonnes of that ($24 billion) is spoilt mainly because of a lack of adequate post-harvest cooling facilties.
The Dearman solution
With grant support from the Department for International Development (DfID), Dearman has begun a two-year project to develop a mobile pre-cooling system for small farmers in South Africa. We estimate that widespread deployment of pre-cooling equipment in Africa could prevent more than 35 million tonnes of food waste per year. This is equivalent to reducing the continent’s total annual food waste by 8.4%, or increasing its total agricultural output value by $9 billion.
We chose South Africa for this project as its agricultural sector faces challenges similar to those of other developing countries, however the infrastructure and skills required to demonstrate the Dearman concept already exist with our project partners- Transfrig and Harvest Fresh.
Food waste through the value chain costs South Africa the equivalent of 2.1% of its GDP (~£4.7bn), over 40% of which occurs in the fruit and vegetable sector alone (4.8m tonnes/yr). Like in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, most of South Africa’s farming operations- over a million operations involving around six million households- fall in the smallholder segment, where low incomes make access to technology impossible.
Deploying 250 Dearman pre-coolers in South Africa would be sufficient to process the 350,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetable wasted annually during post-harvest handling & storage. These 250 units would pay for themselves in a matter of months while the small farmers would see their incomes increase by over 12%.
Next July, we plan to run a four-month field trial on Harvest Fresh’s farm in South Africa to test the zero emissions mobile pre-cooler we are developing. So, it’s early days yet, but our analysis shows there is real potential for a Dearman mobile pre-cooler to improve the cold-chain, increase the quantity and quality of harvests, and therefore increase the incomes and quality of life for small farmers. The need to tackle food waste is increasingly urgent, and Dearman’s work shows that we are stepping forward with our own solution.
Dr Daniel Fennell
Head of New Applications Engineering
Dearman is pioneering the development of clean liquid air technology
Established in late 2011, Dearman is developing a suite of zero-emission technologies, powered by the expansion of liquid air or nitrogen.