Cooling Africa with Solar

Let’s take the conversation away from the pandemic for a minute and talk about Solar!

Recently, agribusiness entrepreneurs and mini-grid developers are considering pivoting their investments into the paradox of transforming Africa’s food markets through Solar cooling.

If you’re running an African startup that deals with renewable energy development, you might have wondered what to do with idle power during off-peak hours… and if your running a startup that trades bulk food products to local and export markets, then you might have considered storage options to keep stock fresher for longer.

The 2 industries fit together like pieces of a puzzle and solar-powered Cold Storage Facilities are readily emerging as a ‘Free 2 birds with 1 key’ type of solution.

Interestingly enough although major publications advocate value markets for cold rooms to be rural farmers, over 63% of post-slaughter/harvest food loss volumes within the region is burdened by commercial African farmers during Processing stages, ones who carry out agriculture more so as a business than a subsistence, a target market that you would assume could ‘afford’ mitigating these losses.

To give you a glimpse of what Solar Refrigeration looks like. I’ve attached below a visual representation of a generic solar cold room illustrated by my start-up, Tree_Sea.mals Ltd. The technology involves an off-grid electrification unit i.e. Solar PV + Battery storage that essentially generates efficient energy that is utilized by the compressor and BoS components of the refrigerant to generate cooling.

To put it into perspective, you can see below the storage-energy ratio that differently sized cold rooms within our typical range of product designs are rated;
* 10ft container – 2.5kWp- 400kg/day cooling capacity
* 20ft container – 4.2kWp- 800kg/day cooling capacity
* 40ft container- 6.0kWp- 1,600kg/day cooling capacity

view more product information below – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HpQmdK6P76nkObpC3eLoTHFzkcvugWSm/view

How your Start-Up can Leverage this technology

1. Attract investors from both the Energy and Agriculture sectors
Solar-powered Cold rooms tackle the need of both electricity supply and food storage, and they do so efficiently and affordably. Considering both these sectors are already amongst the top-funded investment portfolios in Africa combining these features will enable your startup to flexibly pivot your impact indicators to match that of multi-faceted investor groups.

Additionally, tackling the 2 largest SDG targets within the region i.e. Zero Hunger & Clean Energy will broaden your value pool and open up angel syndicate interests.

2. Encourage PEU measures to mini-grid projects
My startup essentially started its grassroots prospects by developing off-grid electrification projects in remote communities. It was quick to notice that limiting mini-grids to the provision of basic lighting and charging did not attract returns on investment neither did it provide much socio-economic change to the target communities. Many energy developers like myself are quickly pivoting to include much needed Productive Use activity to their energy systems.

The biggest notable advantage to your mini-grid startup would be an additional revenue stream. Having a developer owned model will allow you to charge a tariff on both electricity usage and cooling-as-a-service. This would essentially attract higher cash flow and a better valuation to your startup.

3. Reduce Food Loss and translate higher returns to Commercial Farmers
Beef, Dairy and Chicken farmers are rarely discussed despite their contribution towards the African agriculture sector, so in this article, I’ll specifically target value in commercial livestock farming.

With Africa’s population projected to more than double by the middle of the century to 2.5bn and GDP per capita on the continent expected to continue rising meat consumption will become affordable to millions of Africans for the first time. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that the consumption of beef and pork on the continent will increase 200% between 2015 and 2050, while poultry consumption will grow by 211%

This is great news for your commercial livestock start-up as it can focus supply into the local markets… In this case, due to the perishable nature of milk and meat products, Cold rooms can act as isolated storage infrastructure that ensures collective preserves that sell over longer periods.

To conclude…
Adopting energy-efficient storage solutions might be one of the largest mitigation measures to nurture a shift to more sustainable modes of production practices. Allowing your domestic start-up to utilise technology in order to supply local consumer demand, if either for electrification or preservation, might result in less reliance on capital intensive industrialised ecosystems.

About the Author

Tracy Kimathi is the founder of Tree_Sea.mals Ltd. Since 2018, she has been gradually setting up an early stage footprint in the decentralised African energy sector through developing and owing micro-projects

Find her on LinkedIn here https://www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-kimathi-b32670173/