That’s why Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu decided to take a fresh approach to food waste. He’s the founder of ColdHubs, which provides solar-powered food storage units designed for markets and farms.
Officially launched in 2015, ColdHubs now has 54 units in 22 states across Nigeria. More than 5,250 smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers use its cold rooms and in 2020, the company stored 40,000 tons of food, reducing waste and increasing farmers’ profits.
“This is food meant for human consumption that we typically lose along the supply chain, either during harvesting, transportation, or distribution,” says Ikegwuonu. “The mission really is to reduce food spoilage due to lack of cold food storage at key points along the food supply chain.”
Tackling a food waste crisis
Storing a crate of produce in the ColdHub costs around 25 cents per day, and has helped farmers and retailers double their monthly earnings, says Ikegwuonu: “This has been achieved by selling produce that was previously thrown away, sold off at the right price.”
Looking to the future, Ikegwuonu says ColdHubs is also developing technology to freeze produce, for fishing communities in the Niger Delta. “Most of the coastal communities don’t have access to energy at all,” he says, adding that these freezer storage units would also have the capacity to produce ice blocks.
“We have been able to create about 66 new jobs for women,” he says. “Many of these women have become empowered and change agents in their households and communities.”
Ikegwuonu says his current focus is on expanding the business further in Nigeria — but in the next decade, he has his sights set on other countries struggling with similar food waste problems.
“The big dream for us is to solve the problem of food spoilage in Nigeria, and expand our technology and service to other African countries that have these challenges,” he says.