A Communal Solar Fridge for Nigerian Farmers Markets

A Nigerian farmer, frustrated by how fruit and vegetables were wasted at market, has bypassed the grid with this communal solar fridge for farmers to share.

A Nigerian farmer, entrepreneur and radio presenter; Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu had personally experienced how much fruits and vegetables were being wasted because of the lack of electric power in developing nations for cold storage, both from the moment they are picked, but also en route to market, and also sitting all day in the sun once at the market.

Ikegwuonu devised the simplest possible solution from materials at hand to make a portable fold-out shelter providing cooling and also power for a large commercial fridge using four solar panels providing 800-900 watts.

ColdHubs

You might think that it’s easier to just plug in a fridge, but there is no electric grid in many rural parts of developing nations. Solar power could solve problems related to poverty.

The clock is ticking…

Ikegwuonu has put together a one minute elevator pitch explaining the thinking behind his innovation, that makes it very apparent just what a problem this lack of cooling is, from the moment each tomato is picked. As he puts it: the clock is ticking…

For example, nearly half the food these farmers harvest goes to waste, because in Nigeria – like in many developing nations – there is a lack of cold storage.

The problem begins in the hot sun at the farm, the moment it is picked. It gets worse as the day’s harvest is trucked off to market, sitting in the scorching sun for up to eight hours. And at the market; guess what? Another scorcher, with the produce sitting outside under the blazing sun for yet another day.

It is not an insignificant problem. It affects half a billion farmers globally. Ikegwuonu’s startup ColdHubs provides a solution.

Half a billion farmers need this simple solution

These solar-powered refrigeration units have the potential to save not just all that rotting produce, but the livelihoods of 500 million farmers around the world.

ColdHubs offers farmers a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription model. In preparation for storage, farmers transfer their perishable foods into ColdHubs’ reusable crates, which fit neatly onto the shelves of the fridge. Farmers pay a daily flat fee of 50 cents for each crate of food they store.

Ikegwuonu’s envisions that  these walk-in cold rooms would be made available at major food production and consumption centers like farms and outdoor markets.

Ikegwuonu is looking for investors for his startup and trying to raise $100,000 to mass produce the system.

Once in production, he can refine the design for mass production.

But, in terms of providing the solution, his prototype has now proven that the idea works and there is a very ready market. In production, it needs to be as portable as his prototype shown here.

The shelter including the solar panels fold up and stack in the van driving the produce to market, and then are taken out and assembled into the support for the solar panels, while shading the refrigeration unit, which makes it easier to power.

ColdHubs says it can cut post-harvest waste by 80%, providing more revenue to farmers and better nutrition to consumers.

It’s a great idea. Ikegwuonu should look into crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise his seed money.

Image Credit: Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu via ColdHubs.com

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