A cool solution to food spoilage
Each year, small farmers and retailers living in developing countries lose 45% of their harvest and 25% of their income to post-harvest food spoilage. In rural Nigeria, these losses – caused by high air temperature and relative humidity – are exacerbated by a lack of reliable electricity and suitable storage facilities. The situation particularly hurts women, who are responsible for most small-scale farming and trading of crops.
ColdHubs designs, assembles, installs and commissions 100% solar-powered walk-in cold rooms in off-grid markets and farm cooperatives. Branded as ColdHubs, the cold rooms improve food quality and safety and eliminate rapid rotting by reducing exposure to direct sunlight, heat and contamination by chemicals, bacteria, parasites and mycotoxin.
The company allows its customers – farmers, retailers and wholesalers – to store and preserve perishable foods around the clock, extending shelf life from 2 to 21 days. By acting as warehouses, the hubs not only prevent food spoilage but also give customers the opportunity to haggle harder and sell their wares when prices increase.
ColdHubs has a simple “pay-as-you-store” revenue model in which customers pay the equivalent of US $0.50 to store one 20-kilogram crate per day. Each hub is operated by a manager who monitors the loading and unloading of crates, collects the fees and builds relationships with users.
GOALS AND IMPACT
As of December 2020, ColdHubs employed women as hub operators and market managers and had installed 54 cold rooms serving 5 250 farmers, retailers and wholesalers at 32 farms, aggregation centres and markets in Nigeria. By saving 42 024 tons of food from spoilage in 2020, the cold rooms increased customers’ income by an average of USD 50.
During its collaboration with the Swiss Re Foundation, ColdHubs assembled, installed and commissioned ColdHubs serving 267 customers in five produce markets and recruited hub operators and market attendants to oversee the daily operations of each. In addition, 300 farmers, retailers and wholesalers participated in a five-day class on post-harvest management of perishable food. They were trained in the best methods for everything from harvesting and handling, sorting and grading fresh fruits and vegetables, through cooling and packing them on the farm using returnable plastic crates, to transporting, storing and preserving them at the market to avoid spoilage.
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