News and knowhow for farmers

A social enterprise develops solar cooling facility to save fresh produce from undue spoilage

kenyas freshbox introduces solar powered refrigeration to east african markets

FreshBox enterprise cool storage fcility. The enterprise is on a mission to about 53 per cent of food which is wasted in East Africa. Photo courtesy.

A Nairobi based social enterprise, FreshBox , has developed a solar-powered, walk-in refrigeration facility that can hold over 2,100kg of fruits and vegetables to improve the produce shelf life enhancing farmers and vendors income at a time reports indicate huge wastages due to lack of proper storage.

According to a December 2015 report by Research Solutions Africa on Fresh Vegetables Market in Kenya, market space and facilities to handle food products in many markets in both urban and rural areas are insufficient, resulting in high levels of waste and spoilage.

The report further states that during peak seasons most farmers sell most of their fresh produce at a throw away price while a substantial quantity also goes to waste because it is highly perishable.

FreshBox is now reaching farmers and traders that previously have not had access to refrigeration facilities and services to help prevent the spoilage by increasing the longevity of a fruit or vegetable’s selling period by up to 950 per cent depending on the fruit or vegetable.

“Our cold storage system can provide more consistent revenues to the retailers in produce markets and provide more consistent availability of nutritious produce,” said John Mbindyo, FreshBox CEO.

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According to Mbindyo, the brain behind this innovation, vendors in various markets were previously forced to restock their supply regularly because excess produce would spoil after two or three days.

“We put our large-scale cooling unit to the test with a pilot project in a Nairobi fruits and vegetables market. After we installed the refrigerator in the market, the unit was fully booked within a day. Over the course of the next three months, the pilot refrigerator achieved a 100 per cent utilization rate.”

Since then the enterprise has been developing and manufacturing a larger, industrial-sized prototype to meet the rising demand from customers all over the country.

“We designed a simple and efficient model that would self-regulate temperature, thus limiting the demand for electricity. Designed to be sourced and manufactured locally, the unit has the additional capacity to run on solar power, significantly increasing opportunities for penetration into rural markets.”

The facilities are designed primarily to use solar energy as most parts of the country experience frequent electricity outages and sporadic breakdowns making solar energy an increasingly utilised tool in sun-rich areas such as our retail market locations.

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A refrigeration facility can hold approximately 2100-2800 kg of produce, which is about 70 58.5x40x24 centimeter crates.

“We have also developed smaller size unit for the individual needs of the markets and vendors in which we work. We believe that our solution can adequately fit the needs of the market,” said Mbindyo.

Among other produce that can be preserved by the facilities include fresh fruits, vegetables, flower, fish, meat, and dairy products.

FreshBox products and services are found at City Park Market in Nairobi with plans underway to build additional solutions across the greater Nairobi area.

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