ColdHubs: How Solar Powered Cold Rooms Keep Food Fresh in Nigeria

That’s why Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu decided to take a fresh look at food waste. He is the founder of ColdHubs, which makes solar-powered food storage devices designed for markets and farms.

The 39-year-old has received countless awards for this initiative and has just been announced as the joint winner of a $1.5 million competition. AYuTe Africa Challengefor promising young innovators who are using technology to reimagine food production on the continent.

Officially launched in 2015, ColdHubs now has 54 locations in 22 Nigerian states. More than 5,250 small farmers, retailers and wholesalers use its cold stores, and the company stored 40,000 tons of food in 2020, reducing waste and increasing farmers’ profits.

“It’s food intended for human consumption that we usually lose in the supply chain, whether it’s harvesting, transport or distribution,” says Ikegwuonu. “The mission is really to reduce food waste due to the lack of cold food storage at key points in the food supply chain.”

Overcoming the Food Waste Crisis

Nigeria occupies 100 out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index. More than 88 million people in the country face food insecurity and 12% are malnourished.
However, the problem is not a lack of food, but an excess of waste. An alarming 40% of the food that Nigeria produces each year is wasted before it reaches consumers. This is equal to 31% of the total land use. according to the World Bankand it accounts for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
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Ikegwuonu ColdHubs are 10 square foot cold rooms that keep food fresh up to 21 day. Typical refrigeration units of this size would be powered by diesel generators and consume 20 to 30 liters of diesel each day, says Ikegwuonu. 1 million kilograms CO2 released into the atmosphere every year, when the plants are powered around the clock.
According to UNFood waste accounts for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so finding solutions to reduce waste can be vital in the fight against climate change.

Keeping a crate of food at ColdHub costs about 25 cents a day and has helped farmers and retailers double their monthly income, says Ikegwuonu: “This was achieved by selling previously discarded food at the right price. ”

ColdHub is now available at farms and markets in 22 Nigerian states.

Scaling

Looking to the future, Ikegwuonu says ColdHubs is also developing freezing technology for fishing communities in the Niger Delta. “Most coastal communities have no access to energy at all,” he says, adding that these freezers can also produce blocks of ice.

Ikegwuonu also wants to expand its social impact by creating gender parity and jobs in a country where 35% of all employed is in agriculture and 90% livelihood in rural areas depend on it.

“We have managed to create about 66 new jobs for women,” he says. “Many of these women have been empowered and changed agents in their families and communities.”

Ikegwuonu says he is currently focused on further expanding the business in Nigeria, but in the next decade he will be targeting other countries struggling with similar food waste issues.

“Our big dream is to solve the problem of food waste in Nigeria and expand our technologies and services to other African countries that have such problems,” he says.

Time bomb of nature?
Time bomb of nature?