A solar fridge – the solution to food waste in Africa

Posted on 05 November 2019.

Founded by a young Kenyan engineer, the Solar Freeze start-up offers a refrigeration service. It is aimed small-scale African producers who can store their harvests in a mobile solar-powered fridge.

In addition to reducing post-harvest losses, Dysmus Kisilu's solution also improves African farmers’ incomes.

About a third of the food we produce is wasted. In developing countries, most food losses occur after harvesting and before the produce reaches the consumer - in part because of the lack of adequate storage facilities or transportation.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), these "post-harvest losses" are as much as 20% for cereals, 30% for dairy produce and fish and 40% for fruit and vegetables - while hunger and malnutrition persist worldwide.

Refrigeration technologies significantly increase the shelf life of foodstuffs, but are expensive. In developing countries very few small-scale producers have access to cold storage or refrigerated trucks. In addition, these facilities require reliable and affordable electrical services along with technical expertise to install and maintain the equipment.

That's why the Kenyan start-up Solar Freeze, led by the young engineer Dysmus Kisilu, developed a convenient and accessible "off-grid" refrigeration solution especially designed to meet the needs of small-scale farmers in Africa.

A farm-to-city cold chain

Solar Freeze offers mobile solar-powered cold storage facilities that allow small-scale producers to store their produce. Farmers can find a fridge near their farm using the mobile application developed by Solar Freeze or send a text message to the start-up, who will send one out to the farmer. They pay for the service in cash or over the phone with M-Pesa, a popular mobile payment platform in Kenya.

As the company is well aware that post-harvest losses are not only related to the issue of storage, it provides a cold chain from the farm to the point of sale, importantly including a refrigerated transport service. It also offers training to young people in how to handle renewable energy powered farm equipment, along with mentoring activities – in particular for women.

In September 2018, the Solar Freeze project received the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Progress Award for its work in preventing food waste. Apart from reducing post-harvest losses, Dysmus Kisilu's solution improves incomes for African farmers, who often live on or below the poverty line. The prices they receive can rise and fall significantly.

Farmers able to store their produce are no longer forced to sell when prices are low and can afford to wait for a more favorable market. And consumers enjoy better food quality and safety.