In a report for Call to Earth, CNN explores how solar-powered cold storage is being used to reduce food waste in Nigeria.
Much of the food Nigeria produces is spoiled before it reaches consumers. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu founded ColdHubs in 2015 to combat this problem. The company provides cold storage units at markets and farms. Ikegwuonu explains the business, “This is food meant for human consumption that we typically lose along the supply chain, either during harvesting, transportation, or distribution. The mission really is to reduce food spoilage due to lack of cold food storage at key points along the food supply chain.”
ColdHubs are 10-foot-square cold storage units which keep produce fresh for up to 21 days. Ikegwuonu tells CNN that conventional cold storage units of this size would be powered by diesel generators and require 20 to 30 litres of diesel every day. But by using solar panels instead, he says that across all its units, his company prevents over 1 million kilograms of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year, while powering the units 24/7.
Ikegwuonu, who was named a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010, says that storing a crate of produce in a ColdHub costs around 25 cents per day. This has helped farmers and retailers double their monthly earnings, “This has been achieved by selling produce that was previously thrown away, sold off at the right price.”
ColdHubs now has 54 units in 22 states across Nigeria. More than 5,250 smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers use its cold rooms, and in 2020, the company stored 40,000 tons of food, reducing waste and increasing farmers’ profits.
Looking to the future, Ikegwuonu says his current focus is on expanding the business further in Nigeria, but in the next decade, he has his sights set on other countries struggling with similar food waste problems, “The big dream for us is to solve the problem of food spoilage in Nigeria, and expand our technology and service to other African countries that have these challenges.”
Ikegwuonu also wants to extend his social impact by creating gender parity. He discusses why this is so important, “We have been able to create about 66 new jobs for women. Many of these women have become empowered and change agents in their households and communities.”