All throughout human history, cold storage has impacted society. Whether it meant the ability to stop food from spoiling or the ability to store water in hot, arid places, cold storage was often a matter of life and death for people in the past – and even today, it continues to change the places where it is possible to live, causing cities to bloom in the desert, making it possible to live comfortably in remote, resource-rich areas, cooling intense heat and causing huge changes to the nutritional landscape of the modern world.
ECS are proud to be a part of these changes, offering the highest-quality, most reliable refrigeration and cold storage technology to our customers, whether you need a cold room or just one insulated component.
But where did it all start, and how did we get here?
WHAT IS COLD STORAGE?
Cold storage is, as the name might suggest, storage below the ambient temperature of the area. In many places, cold storage is necessary to stop food and drinks from being immediately ruined by high ambient heat, while in every climate across the world, cold storage offers consistency of storage temperature, the ability to transport goods over long distances, the ability to enjoy produce out of season, and the ability to store delicate pharmaceuticals and chemicals at their ideal storage temperature
WHY IS COLD STORAGE IMPORTANT?
Cold storage is important not just for what it brings to the food and drinks industries, but because of how it changes many aspects of society. Cold storage prevents food and drink from decaying, making it possible to store and process without losing significant amounts to spoilage and increasing the efficiency of the process enormously, which in turn reduces the price of the affected foodstuffs and makes them more affordable for normal people. It’s much more than just being able to get a cold drink whenever you like – cold storage has a knock-on result on many aspects of our lives
THE HISTORY OF COLD STORAGE
Cold storage has been something that people have been experimenting with, refining and utilising for thousands of years. First recorded in Syria more than 3,700 years ago, the use of harvested ice from the winter months to provide cold storage into the warmer parts of the year was a popular way to chill and preserve food, until it was superseded by electric refrigeration in the mid-1800’s. Once electric refrigeration had come onto the scene, cold storage was no longer limited to storing naturally-occurring ice, and could be created anywhere, at any time of year. It began a revolution, making it possible to transport food across the world and store it safely for much longer periods of time, helping to usher in the modern age as we know it
THE FIRST COLD STORAGE
The first attempts at cold storage were made in prehistory, as the first recorded ice-house, built in Syria at the command of King Zimri-Lim, was made in 1700 BCE and, tellingly, it was not seen as unusual for the time, indicating that other ice houses existed – it was merely the first recorded ice house
The ancient Chinese, Syrians and Persians all attest to harvesting ice, which would then be kept in an insulated cellar or ice house and used to preserve food and chill drinks. The ancient Greeks and Romans used stored ice from ice cellars not for preserving food, but as a way to cool drinks down in the punishing sun of their summers, while the ancient Egyptians relied not on ice, but on evaporative cooling to chill their drinks
In the early 1800’s, an American entrepreneur realised the value of harvested ice to the average American, and began to commercially cut and transport New England ice for sale to the Caribbean and the Southern United States, building ice houses for storage and helping to popularise the use of cold storage in the average person’s home. By 1830, consumption of ice for storage was at an all-time high, and the public was very accustomed to being able to store cold produce in their own homes – paving the way for refrigeration to sweep the nation in just a few years’ time
THE INVENTION OF REFRIGERATION
In 1755, the first experiment into artificially lowering the temperature of an object was performed, by Professor William Cullen, who managed to artificially create a small amount of ice using diethyl ether as a refrigerant. Three years later, John Hadley and Benjamin Franklin (the same one who would later go on to found the United States of America) developed a means to cool a thermometer bulb down to -7°C from 18°C, stopping the experiment when the ice around the bulb was a quarter of an inch thick. Artificial refrigeration had been born
HOW COLD STORAGE CHANGED THE WORLD
Suddenly, it became possible to ship fresh food across huge distances and to store large quantities for long periods of time in industrial freezer rooms or smaller cold rooms, causing agricultural booms in areas which had previously been too hard to ship food from, opening up new markets and helping to stabilise prices of meat, dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables.