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    Kenyan startup raises farmer incomes 50% with mobile cold storage service

    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.

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    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.”

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    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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

     

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