• Many smallholder farmers in Kenya lack access to cold storage facilities, which can lead to produce being wasted.
  • Now small-volume farmers of avocado, mango and french beans are testing pay-as-you-go cold storage units from Kenya-based company SokoFresh.
  • Plans for 400 cold storage units in five years could boost income for 35,000 farmers.
  • SokoFresh is a member of The Circulars Accelerator on UpLink, an initiative to help circular economy entrepreneurs scale their innovations.

A company in Kenya is using solar energy to help smallholder farmers keep harvested produce cool and prevent food waste.

Small-volume farmers of avocado, mango and french beans in Kenya are helping to test the model from SokoFresh, which manages mobile cold storage units that run on 100% solar energy.

By paying a small amount (1 Kenyan shilling) per kilogram on a pay-as-you-go basis, farmers or produce buyers can access cold storage affordably when they need it.

About 90% of Kenya’s agricultural produce comes from smallholders, who don’t have the kind of cold storage solutions available to large-scale producers. This means lots of produce perishes in outside temperatures after being harvested.

“More than 30% of all food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted,” SokoFresh says. “And food loss in Africa occurs almost entirely in the production and distribution stages.”

Growing profits

Farmers using the model can earn up to 50% more on their harvest, while buyers receive more and better quality produce.

The cost of logistics is also reduced, because trucks are picking up full loads that have been stored in the cold storage units by multiple farmers.

Enviu, the Netherlands-based impact venture organization behind SokoFresh, hopes to have a network of 400 cold storage units in the next five years. This would help 35,000 farmers, creating 3,000 new jobs in rural areas and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Food waste from agriculture

a chart showing food waste
14 Percent of Food Goes to Waste.
Image: Statista

Around 14% of food is lost after harvest on farms and at the transport, storage, processing and wholesale stages, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This food has a value of more than $400 billion a year.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres last year described food loss and waste as an “ethical outrage.”

“In a world with enough food to feed all people, everywhere, 690 million people continue to go hungry and 3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet,” he said.

By 2030, UN member states have pledged to halve food waste and reduce food loss as part of Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Circular solutions

Changing the global food system will be key to addressing climate change, creating healthy cities, and rebuilding biodiversity, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy organization. This can be done by sourcing food grown regeneratively (and locally where appropriate), designing and marketing healthier products and making the most of food.

SokoFresh is a member of The Circulars Accelerator, an initiative to help entrepreneurs scale innovations that will help the world move towards a circular economy – in which waste is eliminated and resources are used again and again.

How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

UpLink is a digital platform to crowdsource innovations in an effort to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

It is an open platform designed to engage anyone who wants to offer a contribution for the global public good. The core objective is to link up the best innovators to networks of decision-makers, who can implement the change needed for the next decade. As a global platform, UpLink serves to aggregate and guide ideas and impactful activities, and make connections to scale-up impact.

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, UpLink is being designed and developed in collaboration with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.

There are currently 17 companies in The Circulars Accelerator 2021 Cohort. Led by Accenture in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform, Anglo American, Ecolab and Schneider Electric, the six-month remote programme includes expert circular economy workshops, coaching modules, mentoring, networking opportunities, investor engagement and accelerator team support.