We are a team of a new, young generation of Africans with an average age of 27. Like many our age, we have seen our parents and grandparents and those before them work tirelessly on farms in the country, only to find that much of their fresh produce has spoiled for lack of proper cold storage. Middlemen often stepped in and offered dirt-cheap prices, and farmers were forced to sell for a knockdown price out of desperation and fear of post-harvest losses.
Lesson number one, learned at a young age: Stay out of farming! It’s a sweaty endeavor that will leave you with crusty hands and empty pockets. We voted with our feet and chose a better life in the big city. That was then. Now we see the only hope for our generation to make a difference is in agriculture, and we have decided to use our skills in renewable energy, engineering, agriculture, business management, ICT and communication to make a difference for smallholder farmers.
Temperature management is the most important tool for reducing temperature losses in developing countries. Very few smallholders have access to refrigeration or cold storage, and even refrigerated transport is a rarity. The unreliability of local power supplies, the cost of conventional cooling systems and the lack of technical expertise to install and maintain them have led to a search for alternative solutions such as evaporative cooling systems. However, mechanical refrigeration is still a simple and efficient solution for cooling products and is usually the only practical means of cooling to near-freezing temperatures. For resource-poor farmers in developing countries, cold storage and transport systems using mechanical refrigeration are economically and practically unfeasible.
We are testing an innovative system, Solar Freeze™, to help small farmers effectively manage post-harvest losses through a holistic approach from storage to transportation to selling produce using renewable energy — from the farm to mobile, solar-powered cold rooms to transporting fresh produce in energy-efficient trucks and finally to the end consumer, which primarily includes customers at the bottom of the pyramid in urban areas who will benefit from lower food prices and better nutrition through our innovation.