The Sea Captain and Expert in Keeping Food Fresh Enough

Rani Singh, Special Assignments Editor Wednesday 12th August 2015 06:55 EDT

We were recently intrigued by the subject of cold-chain and the global food crisis. An expert speaker at the House of Lords on this topic, Captain Pawanexh Kohli, is the Chief Advisor and CEO of India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (or NCCD).

Read about how he correlates and perceives the future of our food life lines. Some interesting facts stand out, as well why the cold-chain, a specialised logistics system, may be quite essential for our future food security at the global level.

At first, Pawanexh illustrates the concept of cold chain.

“Let me share an example from ancient India lore, of rishis and rishikas; there were men and women known to meditate or do penance for extended durations. On realising the frailty of the human body, that it could not survive without food or water for longer than a week or so, they solved that bother by climbing atop the Himalayas, stripping themselves of clothing before entering into the meditative stage. Exposure to the chilling cold would reduce their biological demands, their circulation and respiration, allowing them to remain longer at whatever they were contemplating. They effectively bought time, for multiple weeks the body literally living only on fresh air, far longer than normally possible. This is exactly why we use refrigeration today; using the cold to stretch the usable life of what otherwise would rapidly perish. Such use of cool temperatures is also evidenced in medieval Peru for potatoes, and elsewhere.”

Captain Kohli says that this principle applies to meats and foods.

“The cold-chain in context of our food supply is mainly about controlling the life inside and around food. In case of post-mortem food products like meats and fish, these are cooled to much below freezing temperatures so that the bacteria living on its surface, which normally would decompose the inert flesh, are kept in abeyance. In this case, the cooler the temperature the better and if the bacteria also dies, all the better. On the other hand, whole produce, like fruits and vegetables, are mainly consumed whilst they remain fresh and living. When handling fresh farm produce, the cold-supply-chain’s primary job is to keep the produce alive, albeit retarding its living activities. There is a fine balance between retarding the ageing process and killing the living tissue. Each fruit and vegetable, has its individual chill point or temperature sensitivity. Just a degree below its chill point can cause damage and demise. Unlike in the case of meats, these also continue to breathe and live, so providing oxygen and evacuating their respiratory gases is equally important. It is yet a different ball-game in the case of vaccines where cold-chain technology is also used.”

Captain Kohli says that cold-chain is the sole mode with which we can safely transport fresh produce grown in faraway regions to consumption clusters around the world. As our civilisation developed, we created high density pockets of consumers, with the producing areas shifting to where resources are more suitable.

So, we are rapidly headed towards a scenario where food will be grown where it is most sustainable to do so, the demand concentrated in faraway urban centres, and where the time between the two exceeding the natural life cycle of the perishable produce. Cold-chain alone bridges this gap, by buying time to safely reach the consumers, in quality and quantity. Without proper application of cooling, most modern society would crumble, not just failing the food and medical supply lines, but also disrupting the data management and human comfort systems.

The expert advisory work that Pawanexh does on dry land included advising agribusiness projects of international multi-lateral bodies. But before that, Pawanexh was a Ship Master and also worked with street hawkers in India. His broad spectrum of experiences includes having been a Lead Commander in maritime search & rescue in the South China Sea. In an earlier avatar, as chief officer on ships, he operated the world’s largest Car Carrier which brought across the first ever import of Mini-Rovers to Japan from UK.

A lateral thinker, Pawanexh is a philanthropic and supports the Kaushalya and Advit charity Foundations, and other environment conscious efforts.

He says it stems from a “healthy respect for mother nature, which gets inbred when you sail the seas”. Captain Kohli was awarded ‘Cold-chain Personality of the Year’ in 2012, ‘Exemplary Though Leadership’ in 2013, lauded as one of the ‘25 Most Talented Rural Market Professionals of India’ and with the ‘Agribusiness Leadership Award’, both in 2014.

comments powered by Disqus