The rush to sell fresh food early in the day is on in the crowded Ogere Marketplace in Ogun State, Nigeria. The sun is at the peak by noon, and with temps so high, food spoils quickly. Food might sell for less than half its initial price as the day progresses, reducing profits for farmers and retailers.
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu chose to try a different direction to food waste because of this. He founded ColdHubs, a company that makes solar-fueled food storage units for markets and farmers.
The 39-year-old has received numerous accolades for the project, including being named a joint winner of the AYuTe Africa Challenge, which is valued at $1.5 million, which seeks bright young entrepreneurs who are leveraging technology to rethink food production in the region.
ColdHubs, which first opened its doors in 2015, presently has 54 locations in 22 states throughout Nigeria. It’s cool rooms are used by around 5,250 smallholder farmers, wholesalers, and retailers, and by 2020, the company will have preserved 40,000 tons of food, minimized waste and improved farmer profitability.
“This is food that was intended for human consumption but was lost in the supply chain, during either distribution, harvesting, transportation,” Ikegwuonu explains. “The objective is to prevent food spoiling at crucial locations throughout the food supply chain due to the lack of the cold food storage.”
On a Global Food Security Index, Nigeria is placed 100th out of 113 countries. Food insecurity affects around 88 million individuals in the country, with 12 percent of the population undernourished.
The issue isn’t a scarcity of food; instead, it’s an abundance of waste. Every year, an alarming 40 percent of the food produced in Nigeria is lost before it reaches customers. As per the World Bank, this equates to 31% of the country’s total land use and contributes for 5 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
ColdHubs are ten-foot-square cold storage devices that keep producing fresh for nearly 21 days, according to Ikegwuonu. According to Ikegwuonu, conventional cold storage devices of this magnitude would be operated by diesel generators and consume 20 to 30 liters of diesel per day; however, by utilizing solar panels instead, the firm inhibits over 1 million kgs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every year operating the units 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to the UN, food waste accounts for nearly 10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions; therefore, finding ways to reduce waste could be critical in the battle against climate change.
According to Ikegwuonu, storing a crate of food in the ColdHub costs only 25 cents per day. It has assisted retailers and farmers in double their monthly earnings by selling a previously thrown away product at the proper price.