ColdHubs: How solar-powered cold stores keep food fresh in Nigeria

Because of this, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu decided to take a fresh approach to food waste. He is the founder of ColdHubs, which offers solar-powered food storage units designed for markets and farms.

The 39-year-old has won countless awards for the initiative and was just announced as the joint winner of the $1.5 million AYuTe Africa Challengefor promising young innovators using technology to reinvent food production on the continent.

ColdHubs was officially launched in 2015 and today has 54 units in 22 states across Nigeria. More than 5,250 small farmers, retailers and wholesalers use its cold storage facilities and in 2020 the company stored 40,000 tons of food, reducing waste and increasing farmers’ profits.

“These are foods intended for human consumption that we typically lose along the supply chain, either during harvest, transportation or distribution,” says Ikegwuonu. “The mission is really to reduce food spoilage due to a lack of refrigerated food storage at key points along the food supply chain.”

Tackling a food waste crisis

Nigeria is on the ranking list 100 out of 113 Countries on the Global Food Security Index. Over 88 million people in the country are food insecure and 12% are malnourished.
The problem, however, is not a lack of food, but an excess of waste. An alarming 40% of the food Nigeria produces each year is lost before it even reaches consumers. This corresponds to 31% of all land use, according to the World Bankand accounts for 5% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
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Ikegwuonu’s ColdHubs are 10 square meter cold storage units that keep products up to fresh 21 days. Conventional cold stores of this size are powered by diesel generators and need 20 to 30 liters of diesel per day, Ikegwuonu says – but by using solar panels, the company says it’s cutting across all of its units 1 million kilograms of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year while powering the units 24/7.
According to the U.N.Food waste accounts for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so finding solutions to reduce waste could be crucial in the fight against climate change.

Storing a box of produce in the ColdHub costs around 25 cents a day and has helped farmers and retailers double their monthly earnings, says Ikegwuonu: “This was achieved by selling previously discarded produce at the right price. ”

ColdHubs are now available at farms and markets across 22 Nigerian states.

scale up

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

Ikegwuonu also wants to expand its social impact by creating gender parity and jobs in a nearby country 35% of all jobs is in agriculture, and 90% of rural livelihoods depends.

“We were able to create around 66 new jobs for women,” he says. “Many of these women have become empowered and agents of change in their homes and communities.”

According to Ikegwuonu, he is currently focused on further expanding the business in Nigeria – but over the next decade he has his sights set on other countries struggling with similar food waste problems.

“Our big dream is to solve the problem of food spoilage in Nigeria and expand our technology and service to other African countries facing these challenges,” he says.

Nature's ticking time bomb?
Nature's ticking time bomb? ColdHubs: How solar-powered cold stores keep food fresh in Nigeria

Charles Jones

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