Food waste has been a high profile issue in Britain, with government action and grassroots campaigns to try and tackle it. There has been some modest success in reducing the daft amount of food we throw away, with a long way to go yet.
Wasted food is also a massive problem in developing countries, but in a different way. Where we throw away food uneaten at the consumer end, in developing countries it tends to be wasted in production. This is known as food loss rather than food waste, and it’s something we should be working hard to reduce in an age of growing populations and rising environmental stress.
One of the biggest problems is how fast food can spoil in a tropical climate. Farmers may have a matter of days to get their fruits or vegetables to market before they start to lose their value and their appeal. Milk, meat, eggs and fresh fish are even more susceptible, and present a greater health risk. Spoilage costs developing world farmers almost half their harvest, so there’s an urgent need for silos, cold storage, and the simple technologies of crates and pallets.
One company that’s taking on the challenge is Coldhubs, a Nigerian start-up that has designed modular, solar powered cold stores. Their off-grid cold rooms can be installed in market places and on farms, and local farmers can store fruit, vegetables and other foods safely until they are needed.
Coldhubs offer their space on a pay-as-you-store basis, and their cold rooms can extend the shelf life of food from 2 to 21 days. They estimate that they have already prevented a thousand tons of food from being thrown away, putting more food on plates, and more money in farmers’ pockets.
The company plans to build hundreds of their insulated solar powered storage units across Nigeria and East Africa in the next few years. You can find out more about them here.