Bare Walls instead of Garnished Halls
2019 will be marked by the construction of a storage warehouse built 800 meters underneath the Italian Alps. More than 50,000 tons of apples, like the Golden Delicious brand, will be stored in this facility, comprised of five storage stations upon harvest. One third of the apples that Asda will be selling originate from Italy. In order to save on electricity, water, and storage costs, and also as a means to gain a competitive edge, Italian apple farmers will send their produce directly to this storage facility instead of the traditionally cooled warehouses above ground. According to Asda, by using this alternative form of storage, they will be able to reduce their energy consumption by 60%. This sounds like quite a ground-breaking strategy. However, upon consideration, apples constitute only a small part of the assortment offered by supermarkets. Thus, it is really worth the while? Cooling systems within supermarkets are one of the greatest sources of energy consumption, highlighting the need to explore alternative means of cooling.
Natural Gas as a Coolant
Asda’s main competitor Sainsbury has demonstrated that when it comes to cooling products, there is an alternative option besides the development of underground storage halls. The retail chain distributes its products with trucks that use cooling foil, keeping their products fresh for longer. With the goal of transitioning to natural cooling methods by the year 2030, Sainsbury is getting rid of cooling systems that use CFCs. Chlorofluorocarbons is a chemical compound that is considered particularly damaging to the atmosphere, as it causes almost 15,000 times more damage than carbon dioxide. A branch of the supermarket chain Pick ‘n Pay in Cape Town has already eliminated the use of this gas, and instead uses Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia as a means of refrigeration. These natural gases are less damaging, and the store is thus able to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases by 120 tons per year, whilst reducing its energy needs by 25%. During the cooling process, CO2 systems release a high amount of heat to the external environment, which, on the other hand, contributes significantly to global warming.
Traders Rethinking their Practices
Cooling products is the greatest source of costs for all retail stores. Hence, 70% of all supermarkets are seeking to invest in acquiring new alternative cooling systems in the upcoming years. In order to promote this positive development in the retail and food industry, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment has been supporting firms that select commercial refrigeration systems that are both energy efficient, and environmental friendly. Asda’s intention of storing apples in between harvest is commendable, but it will only truly be effective if this system were to be utilized for other produce as well. Or perhaps, what the world needs is to get back to basics, where produce is not imported but rather produced in the country of purchase. However, one can never truly eliminate the need for cooling systems, even if this were to occur. Thus, we owe it to Mother Nature to look into new methods and technologies to keep our food fresh.