Key Topics

    • A sustainable development approach to cold chain, in line with government goals.
    • A sustainable development and smart approach to cold chain, in line with government goals.
    • Downstream food safety & quality assurance (FSQA) and nutrition programmes, implementation mechanisms and monitoring strategies and methodologies
    • The volume of business of cold storages in the Kingdom, in view of the rise in population and economic growth channels
    • The significance of the Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Programme in the context of a need for establishing additional cold storage infrastructure and strengthening sustainable development goals
    • The current state of health of large, medium and small cold storage warehouses in terms of Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) performance – the quality of specialised refrigeration-related consultancy and contracting services, plus operations and maintenance
    • The integrity of cold storage warehouses, and the burden of liability: A close look at the current scenario, and the responsibility of the owner of the food business, landlord of the property, consultant and contractor
    • The critical importance of purpose-built facilities
    • A role for regulators in enhancing the quality of cold storage construction through specific building codes for greater reliability and for conserving energy
    • The critical importance of enforcement measures and technical capacity building of inspection teams
    • Software- and sensor-based food safety management system (blockchain, IoT, AI-based, BMS) as a vital tool for realtime monitoring of the temperature and relative humidity in all food production and processing facilities, and possibly even warehouses.
    • The compulsions and constraints faced by specialised refrigeration consultants and contractors – the larger picture – and how they are possibly affecting or impairing their ability to deliver optimum solutions with an eye on energy efficiency and reliability
    • How technology solutions providers can offer cutting-edge solutions towards greater energy efficiency, emissions reductions and reliability; business terms & conditions; and aftermarket services and support structures
    • The role of Warehouse Management Systems, and the importance of training and capacity building of warehouse personnel, including managers and food handlers
    • International transport refrigeration standards, codes and best practices: What aspects in them can the region look to adopt?
    • Fleet health: Examining the condition of transport refrigeration vehicles plying on the roads of the GCC region, in terms of hygiene (seamless flooring, handling practices, maintenance), insulation (construction and assembly of panels, including proper interlocking) and air flow
    • The business model of relying on leasing and rental companies for transport refrigeration vehicles
    • Is there a need for evaluating and strengthening current enforcement mechanisms related to transport refrigeration?
    • Action plan and schedule for empowering enforcement officials with the necessary tools, skills and strategies to ensure the integrity of transport refrigeration systems and processes in the region

Discussion Narrative

COLD STORAGE WAREHOUSING

While the downstream aspects of the food cold chain receive a lot of attention from regulators, the midstream, consisting of cold storage warehouses, could be strengthened through better specialised refrigeration consultancy and contracting practices. In the current scenario, in the event of a food safety-related outbreak, the burden of responsibility is solely on the food provider.

In many cases, the provider is a tenant, who has inherited the design and construction from the building owner.

The owner, consultant and contractor have no liability whatsoever, so there is no or little motivation in the form of either incentive or penalty to ensure the cold storage is built with a view to ensure proper airflow, insulation, etc., which are vital for food safety & quality assurance (FSQA).

Also, as happens with open-plan offices in the realm of building performance, the cold storage facilities are often not purpose-built, which may work against FSQA related goals. So there is a need to upfront identify the user-profile and design, and construct accordingly, so that FSQA ideals are not compromised.

The larger issue, which could be a reason for instances of poor design and construction of cold storage warehouses, is the current state of the specialised consultancy and contracting industries – the reference really is to the specialised refrigeration consultants and contractors – who have to battle payment delays or cuts, labour supply issues and substandard equipment (misrepresentation of product certifications), which possibly impairs them from giving the best possible solutions in terms of energy efficiency and reliability (of cooling, chilling or freezing).

While the above points need serious attention, there is an equally important issue, which if substantially addressed,could elevate the standard of cold storage design,construction, operation and maintenance. In the current scenario, food safety inspectors, while typically trained in many specialised areas of FSQA (with a strong base in microbiology), perhaps need specialised training to be able to evaluate the cold storage design and construction (in terms of air flow, insulation quality, etc.). If this gap is filled, the entire cold chain can benefit in a significant manner.

While a stronger inspection and enforcement regimen will help, the other strategy is to rely on IoT- and AI-based tools and blockchain to monitor cold storage facilities. The tools will, on live basis, monitor the temperature and relative humidity in all food production and processing facilities and possibly even warehouses.

TRANSPORT REFRIGERATION

Equally as important as cold storage warehousing is transport refrigeration, an integration of condensing units and the body of the reefer trucks and vans. Food hygiene is heavily reliant on the building of the trucks (proper insulation through high panel integrity, interlocking of the panels, seamless flooring and air flow).

Ageing fleets of trucks and vans usually mean the integrity of the body is not up to the desired standard, which can compromise food safety and food security (reducing food losses). Hence, there is a critical and urgent need to strengthen regulation and enforcement measures, in line with global best practices. It is important that the best in business (ATP, TransFridge) are brought to the table to share insights and recommendations on subjects like fleet health and crossborder transportation.