News and knowhow for farmers

Farm-level cold-storage services double farmer incomes

soko fresh Kenya

By George Munene

Foun­ded in 2019, Soko Fresh of­fers farm-level cold-stor­age ser­vices and di­gital mar­ket link­ages to small and me­dium-scale farm­ers on a pay-as-you-go busi­ness model. Char­ging just one shil­ling per piece/kilo­gram stored, farm­ers re­port earn­ing up to 50 per cent more than they pre­vi­ously did from their har­vests. Buy­ers for their part re­ceive more and bet­ter-qual­ity pro­duce.

Ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional Bur­eau of Stat­ist­ics (KNBS) 2018 re­port, Kenya’s post-har­vest losses were es­tim­ated at 20 per cent. This amoun­ted to 1.9 mil­lion tonnes of food, and earn­ings worth Sh150 bil­lion as farm­ers struggled to man­age, store, and trans­port their pro­duce to mar­kets.

For Kenya’s hor­ti­cul­tural ex­port­ers, up to 50 per cent of har­vest is wasted for fail­ing to meet phytosan­it­ary and cos­metic stand­ards, often as a res­ult of sub­stand­ard stor­age con­di­tions.

While small-scale farm­ers ac­count for over 70 per cent of Kenya’s ag­ri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, they bear the brunt of these losses due to a lack of cold-stor­age tech­no­lo­gies that are avail­able to large-scale pro­du­cers. Soko Fresh’s mo­bile cold stor­age solu­tion seeks to bridge this gap. The in­nov­at­ive model gives farm­ers, traders, and ex­port­ers a risk-free op­por­tun­ity to safe­guard the qual­ity of agri-pro­duce im­prov­ing their bot­tom line.

Re­lated News: Her­metic bags trans­form grain stor­age, cut­ting costs, losses and aflatoxin

Re­lated News: Im­proved grain stor­age tech­no­logy bright­ens up Kenyan farm­ers

Har­ves­ted pro­duce is housed in solar en­ergy-powered off-grid mo­bile cold stor­age units with tem­per­at­ures ran­ging from four to twelve de­grees and a ca­pa­city of hold­ing up to five tonnes of pro­duce each. 

This op­tim­ises ag­greg­a­tion from small­hold­ers mean­ing the cost of lo­gist­ics is sig­ni­fic­antly re­duced as off-takers do not have to pick pro­duce from mul­tiple farm­ers in dis­par­ate loc­a­tions. 

These farmer groups and co­oper­at­ives are then linked to ex­port­ers, whole­salers, and pro­cessors. A suc­cess fee is charged as a per­cent­age on the mar­ket link­age en­abled sales.

Precooling Hass Avocado in Rural Muranga. A look inside the Offgrid Mobile Cold storage facility

Ex­plain­ing the value pro­pos­i­tion offered by Soko Fresh to both farm­ers and agro-pro­duce buy­ers, Paul van der Linden the com­pany’s chief fin­an­cial of­ficer elu­cid­ated; “Sourcing sig­ni­fic­ant amounts of pro­duce from small­holder farm­ers takes time, farm­ers and off-takers have to con­stantly bal­ance the high cost of trans­port­a­tion with the high losses caused by field heat and non-op­timal stor­age con­di­tions. With cold stor­age, they are able to ag­greg­ate large volumes for two to four days without ex­per­i­en­cing the food loss that oc­curs at out­side tem­per­at­ures. Trucks are then util­ized at full ca­pa­city, re­du­cing the cost of lo­gist­ics. Re­duced food loss and re­duced lo­gist­ics costs, make a very strong busi­ness case for cold stor­age. With this cold chain in­stalled, the door to ex­port mar­kets is opened up, en­abling a higher price point for the pro­duce of our farm­ers.”

Re­lated News: Kibiri­chia farmer lifts potato earn­ings 50% with stor­age and off-sea­son sales

Cur­rently, Soko­Fresh has three cold stor­age con­tain­ers hand­ling avo­ca­dos, man­goes, and french beans–value chains in which they have se­cured cus­tom­ers. The units are in Embu; where up to 150 farm­ers store 9,000 kilo­grams of avo­cado; Mak­ueni, and Mur­ang’a.

The com­pany is cur­rently work­ing on six new stores. In five years Soko­Fresh tar­gets to have a net­work of 400 cold stor­age units; this will raise the in­comes of over 35,000 farm­ers and cre­ate 3,000 new rural jobs.

Soko­Fresh: +254 (0)20 200 0154 | Email: info@​sokofresh.​co.​ke 

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