Nnameka Ikegwuonu is a farmer, innovator, leading social entrepreneur and Founder/CEO of the Smallholders Foundation Ltd./Gte. Nnaemeka grew frustrated with mounting losses of small shareholder farmers. Local farmers were losing up to 45% of their crops. His project, called ColdHubs, addresses the cold storage needs of farmers by combining the well-established technologies of photovoltaic energy supply and compressive cold generation with a novel concept of pay-as-you-need storage. ColdHubs are modular, solar-powered cold rooms that provide 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods. They are installed in farms and markets within the reach of smallholder farmers and retailers. A ColdHub extends the shelf life of perishable goods from 2 days to 21 days, dramatically changing the lives and fortunes of local farmers.
It was developed to help the 470 million farmers and retailers in developing countries (Rockefeller Foundation; Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative 2014), who do not have access to reliable cold storage. It is estimated that small farmers and retailers suffer a 25% reduction in their income due to loss of value in an average of 45% of their vegetable harvests, 35% of their fruit harvests.
The Hubs are placed in market areas and farms which has a cluster of farmers. Local personnel, generally women, are hired to provide the crates rental services. Crates are rented for a US$.50/day. Market managers who are also farmers, coordinate the activity in the market or farms including encouraging farmers to use the cold room.
Individual ColdHubs remain the property of the company. Personnel are compensated based on the rate of crate usage at sites for which they are responsible.