ColdHubs: Solar Fridges for Off-Grid Communities in Nigeria


In many developing countries, huge amounts of food goes to waste simply because of a lack of cold storage options. ColdHubs has come up with a solution to Nigeria's food waste problem, with an innovative refrigeration system powered by the sun.

Author Lydia Skrabania:

Translation Lydia Skrabania, 05.29.17

In industrialised countries, millions of tons of edible food is thrown away every year. According to recent estimates, something like a third of all of the food produced for human consumption ends up in the trash. Often food waste occurs for aesthetic reasons – before the products even reach the supermarket – because vegetables aren’t a uniform shape or size, or because they’re bruised or overripe. And when it comes to meat and milk products, many consumers rely on the expiration date rather than checking to see whether the food is still fit to eat – another reason why food products end up as waste before they should.

But the topic of food waste is in fact an issue throughout the world, and developing countries aren’t immune.  However, there, the reasons behind food wastage are completely different – a break in the cold chain or improper storage can cause produce to spoil, especially fruits and vegetables. In fact, insufficient cooling is estimated to be the reason for roughly 45 per cent of food being wasted, and millions of farmers in less-developed countries losing around a quarter of their income.

Nigeria’s ColdHubs Fix for Food Waste

The Nigerian company ColdHubs has come up with a solution – in the form of a modular refrigeration system. Run entirely on solar power, it doesn’t need to be hooked up to an energy network, meaning it can also be installed in rural areas that are off-grid. The solar panels are mounted on the roof of the cold storage station and the energy generated is stored in high-capacity batteries. Those batteries then feed into an inverter, which in turn powers the refrigerating unit.

These walk-in cooling stations are designed to help farmers avoid losses as much as possible after harvest. By storing perishable food in a ColdHub refrigeration unit, its shelf life can be increased from 2 days up to 21. ColdHubs’ refrigeration units are primarily installed in large production and storage centres, such as markets and farms, throughout Nigeria. Farmers can store their perishable products there in stackable crates and they pay for the service via a flexible “pay as you store” model. The rate is currently 100 Naira per day and per crate – the equivalent of about 50 US cents.

But Coldhubs doesn’t just offer a solution to the food waste problem and a way for local farmers to improve their profits: They also want to help empower women in the country and therefore are dedicated to hiring primarily women to operate the ColdHubs stations. And the stations can double up as storage for medicines and vaccines too, leading to better health care for rural areas.

For more solutions to the food waste problem, check out Evaptainers, a mobile solution that works via evaporation and without the need for electricity, and the digital supply chain solution from Fresh.Land that asks why it takes so long for our food to get from the farmers to our plates, and how speeding it up gets us better quality produce and farmers better profits.

This is a translation of the original article which appeared on RESET’s German-language site.

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