In Nigeria, Solar-Powered Fridges at Outdoor Markets Save Food From Spoiling

By Bryan Lufkin on at

In developing countries, an unbelievable 45 per cent of food goes bad because of a lack of cold storage. It’s an especially big problem during transportation from farms to outdoor markets, where food sits in the scorching sun for hours on end. But one startup has a solution: solar-powered refrigeration stations that could save the livelihoods of half a billion farmers worldwide.

It’s called ColdHubs, and it’s a Nigerian-based company founded by entrepreneur and radio presenter Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, who’s a farmer himself. Here’s the problem he set out to solve: Almost half the post-harvest food in developing nations like Nigeria quickly spoil because there’s nothing to keep it refrigerated, and 470 million farmers in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America lose up to 25 per cent of their annual income because of it. There is no cool storage at local community markets, where it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This income loss affects 200 million farmers in Africa alone.

So Ikegwuonu turned to solar panels. His design is an easy-to-set-up, modular, walk-in cold room that provides “24/7 off-grid storage and preservation for perishable foods.” Freshness for these fruits and vegetables skyrockets from two days to 21 days, and local farmers’ post-harvest loss is cut by 80 per cent.

Designed for use in major food production and consumption centers like farms and markets, ColdHubs’ units provide farmers 4.7-inch-thick cold insulation at 41 degrees Fahrenheit. They utilize rooftop solar panels, which power an inverter that runs the refrigeration unit. The service is available to farmers as a pay-as-you-store subscription.

ColdHubs was one of 14 innovators selected by the United Nations to help address the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Last month, ColdHubs presented at UN Headquarters in New York alongside the other winners, who were chosen by member states’ science ministries from over 800 entries spanning all continents.

Ensuring farmers have on-the-ground refrigeration not only saves food. It saves jobs, and a boatload of money, too.


This story is part of a special series about the United Nations’ plans to solve global issues using emerging technology. Read more about it here.