Kentucky sets the example for large-scale freezer farms

By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky

Logistics operators are feeling the heat from the growing health care industry.

Pressure for expedited pharmaceutical delivery and transportation has increased over recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the need.

As a global air hub, Kentucky now has one of only two large-scale freezer farms in the world aimed to ease that pressure. Companies like United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) have made room for more products by utilizing large-scale freezer farms to preserve COVID-19 vaccines in a controlled temperature. The largest freezer farm is located in Louisville and the other in Venlo, Netherlands.

The logistics of freezer farms

UPS representatives said it is important for these sites to be near global air hubs so they can serve as pit stops during distribution for those awaiting authorization from the Food and Drug Association (FDA).

Growth experts that specialize in logistics have compared the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to launching every smartphone and hot new gaming console all at the same time. And it won’t stop when the COVID-19 cases slow down.

Freezer market growth

The storage requirements for COVID-19 vaccines has also changed the types of customers reaching out to freezer manufacturers.

Freezer manufacturers reported more demand coming from smaller clinics and state health departments, as well as the logistics and shipping companies.

The global “ultra-low temperature” (ULT) freezer market is expected to grow from $1.4 billion to about $2.1 billion in 2027, according to a July 2020 Market Research Future report.

These ULT freezers can be used for more than just vaccine storage. They’re also used for blood and blood product storage, biological samples, drug compounds and more.

Adapting to demand

The logistics industry, like many others, will be forced to adapt strategies and distribution tactics in a way that has never been done before and one that may not be a possibility for everyone.

Very few pharmacies and clinics have enough equipment needed for large-scale vaccine distribution over an extended period of time, according to GEN, a genetic engineering and bio-tech publication. Collaboration with companies like UPS, FedEx and large pharmaceutical manufacturers will help aid those lacking resources.

Large freezer farms like the ones in Louisville and Venlo can hold up to 300 freezers at -80 degrees Celsius and 48,000 vials of vaccines with destinations all over the country and the world.

ULT storage connects cities to countries and heals along the way. And it places Louisville right at the center of it all as a clearing house and distribution center for future medicine, vaccines and therapies.

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