John Mbindyo, a 28-year-old Kenyan IT graduate, is helping local farmers and vendors to reduce food wastage with his low-tech cooling units that use solar energy.
CEO and founder of FreshBox Mbindyo has created solar-powered, walk-in cold boxes that offer farmers and retailers reliable cooling and storage facilities for their perishable food items.
Mbindyo says that the inspiration to develop this resourceful technology came from his interactions with local grocery vendors who, for a long time, endured huge losses due to lack of proper refrigeration solutions for their products.
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In particular, he recalled how one local store vendor confessed to him that they are forced to throw away large amounts of their stock after two or three days due to lack of suitable refrigeration facilities.
Since its development in October 2016, FreshBox has been providing local farmers and vendors with reliable refrigeration services for only 70 Kenyan shillings ($0.68) per day.
These units are installed in markets and farms within the reach of farmers and vendors and offer cold room temperatures of as low as 5°C, thus extending the freshness of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable foods to about 21 days instead of two days without refrigeration.
In a region where severe hunger is a common occurrence, this technology is seen as the much-needed solution to reducing food waste and spoilage, which will ultimately help to eradicate hunger.
Statistics indicate that half of the staple food produced in Africa goes to waste due to lack of proper storage and refrigeration solutions.
This trend is especially worrying given that currently more than 20 million people are facing starvation in Africa.
With solutions, such as FreshBox, farmers and vendors across the continent will be able to store their farm produce for longer periods and minimize wastage.
“Like manufacturing, agriculture needs to be supported by complete functioning systems from production to consumers,” says Calestous Juma, a Kenyan-born Harvard professor and author of the book “The New Harvest.”
Prof. Juma says the best solution to minimizing food wastage in Africa lies in building reliable energy, storage, processing, and transportation systems.
In a span of five months, Mbindyo has been able to attract 14 regular clients in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and neighboring regions, and hundreds of others have expressed interest in his services.
“I am hoping to expand our capacity and to have a number of units across Nairobi to attract more clients,” Mbindyo says.
With this technology, farmers have the confidence to produce more food items and vendors feel encouraged to stock more products.