Heifer, ColdHubs, launch solar-powered storage solutions to promote agriculture
February 2, 2023176 views0 comments
By Business AM
Heifer International’s sponsored agritech storage solution, ColdHubs, has been formally introduced into the Lagos market with the launch of the facility for smallholder farmers and sellers of perishable farm produce at the ABAT CBD Market in Ibeju-Lekki.
The ColdHubs innovation, sponsored on a large scale by Heifer International, is part of the measures to increase storage capacity and ensure last-mile connectivity to prevent post-harvest losses experienced by small-holder farmers and to ensure food security in Nigeria. Heifer International, also said it will this year support ColdHubs to produce additional ColdHubs facilities in Lagos markets out of a total of 40 planned for the year.
Addressing farmers, farm produce traders and government officials present at the launch, Rufus Idris, country director of Heifer International, Nigeria,explained that ColdHubs innovation will help Nigeria to attain food sufficiency and reduce hunger. He added that it will enhance the capacity of farmers and sellers of perishable farm produce to earn more income and also reduce unemployment.
Idris, noted that young entrepreneurs across Africa have the capacity to develop homegrown solutions that will support farmers across the continent and encourage young people to develop a keen interest in the agriculture sector.
According to the Heifer director, the international organisation believes that one of the ways to end hunger and poverty is to intervene in agriculture by reducing post harvest losses incurred by farmers and removing pressure that forces traders to sell their produce below cost price.
“We want to do our part to help young innovators deploy tech innovations that will boost farming and food production and provide smallholder farmers with the support they require to grow a sustainable, profitable business,” said Idris.
Heifer International, in a statement, expressed its commitment to invest in smallholder farmers, youth and women, innovation and new technologies to unlock opportunities within the agricultural sector with a view to unleashing Nigeria’s potential for food self-sufficiency, increasing local production to meet rising local demands, while closing the living income gap for smallholder farmers and households living in poverty.
Also speaking at the ceremony,Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, the founder and CEO of ColdHubs, said the company is inspired by the need to provide storage solutions for smallholder farmers who have no way of keeping their produce fresh, forcing them to sell it soon after harvest.
“With support from Heifer International, we are expanding our affordable, pay-as-you-go refrigeration option and making it available right in the middle of local markets,” he added.
Ikegwuonu noted further that though post harvest loss is huge in Nigeria, with ColdHubs’ innovation, production and processing of farm produce is in the right direction. He assured that the facility will surely increase farmers’ economic earning power and also help buyers as they will always have fresh and healthy farm produce to buy.
According to the ColdHubs CEO, the $500,000 prize money obtained from the AYuTe Africa Challenge has been the major catalyst for his firm’s innovation. He also noted that the company has now launched an ambitious expansion strategy.
Adesola Olusanya, the Lagos State commissioner for agriculture, said at the occasion that ColdHubs is of paramount importance to the state and it is in line with the five-year development programme drawn by the state in 2021 to ensure food security and sufficiency for Lagos residents.
The Commissioner, who was represented by Emmanuel Audu, a director in the ministry of agriculture and head of Lagos State Agriculture Training Institute, added that farmers work hard but do not derive enough income for their labour because of post-harvest losses and often forced to sell their produce at low prices for lack of storage facility.
‘’With ColdHubs, farmers will now have better returns for their efforts with huge multiplier effects”, the Commissioner stated.
She disclosed further that Lagos State craves for more innovations in the agriculture value chain to reduce its reliance on other states to feed Lagosians, adding that “we need similar interventions for the fishing communities in the state.”
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have variously attributed lack of storage and processing facilities as one of the major problems facing agricultural development in Nigeria, stating that post-harvest activities like storage must be given the right inputs.
To this end, ColdHubs has produced compact, walk-in, solar-powered coolers placed at produce markets for keeping farm produce fresh for days and weeks. The transportable, stand-alone unit also gives local farmers an affordable, pay-as-you-go option to store their farm produce. The unit’s solar panels are connected to a battery storage system that allows the coolers to operate completely off the grid 24-hours a day.
As a result, ColdHubs’ solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms eliminate food spoilage, increase the income of farmers, retailers and wholesalers; and make safe, nutritious and hygienic food available for local consumption