Kenyan start-up Solar Freeze is pioneering mobile solar-powered fridge-freezer units for rural smallholder farmers to help them reduce the huge challenge of post-harvest loss.
In much of the developing world, postharvest losses are as high as 80% and the cold‐storage chain is virtually non‐existent due to the high cost of equipment and spotty electricity. Because fresh produce can perish in a matter of days under ambient temperatures, temperature control alone can extend the shelf life by weeks or even months.
This is why Solar Freeze, led by the young engineer Dysmus Kisilu, have developed a convenient and accessible “off-grid” refrigeration solution especially designed to meet the needs of small-scale farmers in Africa.
Today, an estimated 470 million small farmers in developing countries lose an average of 15% of their income due to food spoilage. Solar Freeze uses solar-powered cold rooms to preserve perishable food in farms across Africa.
Farmers can find a fridge near their farm using the mobile application developed by Solar Freeze or send a text message to the start-up, who will send one out to the farmer. They pay for the service in cash or over the phone with M-Pesa, a popular mobile payment platform in Kenya, with costs as little as $0.1cents per day for a crate of fruits. Solar Freeze also provides mentorship and training, plus a mobile app that helps farmers reduce post-harvest losses.
These off grid portable solar cold stores are designed and built with the user reliability, performance and running costs in focus. Solar Freeze brings a new dimension to the temperature controlled, portable cold storage market.
This solution helps smallholder farmers avoid huge investments in creation of storage space, enabling them to focus in producing high value horticulture and dairy produce.
By enabling farmers to store their produce, Solar Freeze plays a role in improving incomes for African farmers, since they are no longer forced to sell when prices are low and can afford to wait for a more favorable market. And consumers enjoy better food quality and safety.
Solar Freeze provides a cold chain from the farm to the point of sale, importantly including a refrigerated transport service. It also offers training to young people in how to handle renewable energy powered farm equipment, along with mentoring activities – in particular for women.
The Solar Freeze project received the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Progress Award in 2018 for its work in preventing food waste.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com