With ColdHubs, entrepreneur Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is building and operating walk-in cold rooms that may help Nigerian farmers and vendors to store and preserve produce better.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture employs two-thirds of the entire labor force in the country.
But food loss continues to plague the sector. In 2017, Director General Gloria Elemo of the Nigerian-based Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), estimated that 50 percent of food produced in the country goes to waste. This loss is compounded by deteriorating roads, inefficient production methods, and lack of access to technology.
Ikegwuonu created ColdHubs after he heard farmers and market organizers complain about the lack of cold storage, a major food spoilage contributor.
ColdHubs utilizes solar panels to power batteries that the organization believes can be a way of “maximiz[ing] energy efficiency while minimizing the environmental impact of cooling,” Ikegwuonu tells Food Tank.
Currently, a single cooler from ColdHubs costs US$28,000. Ikegwuonu partnered with investors from the German International Development (GIZ) to build their first three coolers and found the coolers taking as little as three years to become profitable.
ColdHubs presents itself as a pay-as-you-store model. Farmers pay a daily flat fee of US$0.50 for each crate of food they store versus the usual cold storage operational cost of US$37.50 per day.
Ikegwuonu tells Food Tank that each cold room is able to hold three tons of food including tomatoes, beans, and peppers and will soon be able to accommodate as much as ten tons of food.
Since its creation, Ikegwuonu says that ColdHubs has served 3,517 farmers, retailers, and wholesalers with 24 coolers. “In 2019, our 24 operational ColdHubs saved 20,400 tons of food from spoilage, saving the natural resources used in producing the food,” Ikegwuonu tells Food Tank.
Through ColdHubs, Ikegwuonu is also working to create economic opportunities by hiring women in Nigeria. “[Women] contribute 70 percent in the production of horticultural produce and 100 percent in retail sales… with post-harvest loss disproportionately affecting them,” Ikegwuonu tells Food Tank. He says that ColdHubs has created 48 new jobs for women.
By the end of 2020, ColdHubs hopes to have more than 50 coolers across Nigeria. With them, he hopes to continue to “protect the environment, resources, and the climate while supporting the use of renewable technologies within cooling.”
Photo courtesy of Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu