Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Agrotech Plus, a Walk-in, solar-powered cold stations for 24/7 storage and preservation for fresh fruits, vegetables and other agricultural perishables like Fish.
What specific problem are you trying to solve?
In developing countries, 45% of food spoils mainly due to lack of cold storage, 470 MILLION SMALL FARMERS TO LOSE 25% OF THEIR ANNUAL INCOME. The Perishable food especially fresh fruits and vegetables start to deteriorate as soon as they are harvested because they are cut off from their source of water and nutrition. They lose weight, texture, flavor, nutritional value and appeal. Cooling significantly slows down the rate of deterioration, thereby increasing the storage life of the produce.
In Kenya, infrastructure issues such as lack of electrification and cold storage along the food supply chain, combined with the country’s hot climate, mean an alarming 40% of food produced every year is lost before ever reaching consumers. According to the World Bank, this food loss equates to 31% of Kenya’s total land use and 5% of its greenhouse gas emissions. In a country where agriculture employs two-thirds of its labor force, many smallholder farmers in rural areas must race to sell their fresh produce in the morning before it spoils in the midday heat, or else are forced to rely on costly, polluting diesel-powered refrigeration—resulting in slashed profits either way.
Food waste is not a problem unique to Kenya: The United Nations estimates that 25-30% of all food produced worldwide is never eaten and generates approximately 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 30-50 percent of food production is lost before it reaches the market due to problems ranging from improper use of inputs to lack of proper post-harvest storage, processing or transportation facilities.
Global food waste contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions which is from inefficiency in post-harvest cold chains.
The Present-day post-harvest losses are a threat to the Women and Youth Smallholder farmers in terms of feeding and financial stability. postharvest loss is a threat to food security, economic stability as well as environmental protection that cuts across most farming communities in Africa and around the globe.
Each year, 1.6 billion tons of food worth more than $1 trillion are lost or go to waste—one-third of the total amount of food produced globally according to figures from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In sub-Saharan Africa, FAO estimates that 30-40 percent of total production is lost before it reaches the market, due to problems ranging from spillage to lack of proper post-harvest storage, processing or transportation facilities. The waste negates much of the food and nutrition security benefits of investments to increase productivity.
What is your solution?
To address this issue, Our innovation, Agrotech Plus, is a “plug and play” modular, solar-powered walk-in cold room, for 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods. It adequately addresses the problem of post- harvest losses in fruits, vegetables and other perishable food. The cold storage is installed in major food production and consumption centers (in markets and farms), farmers place their produce in clean plastic crates, these plastic crates are stacked inside the cold room. This extends the freshness of fruits, vegetables and other perishable food from 2 days to about 21 days. The solar powered walk-in cold room is made of 120mm insulating cold room panels to retain cold. Energy from solar panels mounted on the roof-top of the cold room are stored in high-capacity batteries, these batteries feed an inverter which in turn feeds the refrigerating unit.
Who does your solution serve? In what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Agrotech Plus Cold Storages are meant for smallholder farmers, retailers and wholesalers, to store and preserve fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable foods 24/7, extending their shelf life from 2 days to 21 days. Agrotech plus integrates the cold storage service with market linkage and value-add processing activities into smallholder farmer value chains through an as-a-service proposition, reducing post-harvest loss by 80%. With more of their harvest to sell, smallholder farmers will be able to increase their annual income by 25%.
The company’s solar powered cold storage unit includes cold room panels, sensors, a condensing unit, and an evaporator.
Using solar power means the refrigerated unit doesn’t need to be connected to an electricity grid and is “net positive to the environment”. “Every solar cold room we set up is reducing up to 16.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions each month. As well as keeping crops cool, the solar powered cold storage unit can be used to store fresh fish and medical materials, including vaccines.
Local people can also charge their reusable lamps and mobile devices at the solar powered cold storage units, helping to tackle energy poverty. Future plans for Agrotech Plus include investing 1% of the service charge for each crate of crop stored into educational materials for the children of farmers.
In addition to deploying technology, our social enterprise Agrotech Plus Limited, organizes and imparts on smallholder farmers and food supply chain actors, comprehensive skills and knowledge on post-harvest management of perishable food using local language educational comics which educates them on best harvest methods, handling, sorting and grading, packing using returnable plastic crates, on-farm cooling, packing house, best practices in transportation, storage and preservation to avoid spoilage in the market, managing spoilage during sales, the Cold-storage advantage, nutritional value of high quality fruits and vegetables and financial gains due to high quality fruits and vegetables.
Agrotech Plus aims to eliminate the impact of food spoilage and lack of small-scale post-harvest infrastructure facing 470 million smallholder farmers globally and increase the income of farmers and retailers because, previous losses have been eliminated. The company also targets to hire mainly women to manage the operations and collection of revenue at Cold-storage stations.
More nutritious food will be available to rural and urban dwellers, especially children.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
- Mr. Elisha Caleb -Founder & CEO
Farmer, innovator, leading social entrepreneur and Founder/CEO of the Agrotech Plus in 2019.
Created Smallholder Farmer Rural Radio (2 million Kenyan listeners).
He is a United Nations Young leader for SDGs and has won numerous global awards & recognitions for his contributions to digital technologies in Africa including Africa Pioneer in Agritech by Forbes, ASME ISHOW (2015), One Young world Ambassador (2018), Digital Capacity development by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2018, Leaders in Innovation (LIF) Fellow at Royal academy of engineering and he serves in the World Bank youth Advisory group on solutions for youth employment (S4YE), Named in Vanity Fair global goals list – 2019 for championing for zero hunger. He is also a member of the Africa Europe foundation Strategic task force on Agriculture and food systems.
2. Mr. Kalvince Otieno- Business Development Manager
Experienced business development manager with extensive expertise in agribusiness startups, rural logistics, distribution, commercial strategy, contract negotiations, business processes, and team building.
3. Ms. Sharon Chacha- Technical Officer (TO)
Ms. Sharon is an agricultural engineer, with extensive knowledge and expertise in clean energy, solar cells, batteries, air conditioning, cold room design, and refrigeration. He holds a Higher National Diploma (HND) Agricultural Engineering, from the Kenyatta University, Kenya and a Technical Certificate in Electrical and Electronics Enginering. As TO, He designs, constructs, installs and maintains the solar powered walk in cold rooms. He also trains technicians and operators on installation, maintenance and repair of the cold rooms.
The lead team at Agrotech Plus previously worked at The Climate Corporation, a digital agriculture company that analyses weather, Solar Energy, soil and field data to help US farmers determine potential yield-limiting factors in their fields. This company was recently acquired by Monsanto for circa $1bn. The team also includes staff with strong experience in working with smallholder farmers, agronomy, and solar powered cold storages in Africa. As such, the team has credible experience in technology development and business commercialization of relevance to Agrotech Plus, as well as in working with smallholder farmers in Africa.
What steps have you taken to understand the needs of the population you want to serve?
The Agrotech Plus story is one of step-by-step growth. Having an idea, improving it, finding partners and implementation. Agrotech Plus still has a lot of work to do, but the initial results are promising. And this is why the company has already benefitted from support through many Partnerships.
I have travelled around Kenya for over ten years. I had a radio station that specialized in agricultural news and I made more than 3,000 programmes designed to teach things to our farmers. It was during my trips that I noticed how much food we throw away. Farmers can’t preserve the things they produce either on their farms or at the local markets. What they don’t manage to sell straight away is often lost. Food waste is a major problem in Kenya and this leads to hunger and a loss of income.
In 2019, I built a rather primitive cold store with a small team. It had air conditioning, a battery and a solar panel. We didn’t have much scientific or technical knowledge, but we nevertheless managed to make it work. I went to talk with the Kenya government, which awarded me a small grant to develop my idea. In 2019 and 2020, we began to test our first cold store among vegetable producers and sellers. They were all very enthusiastic, but at the same time, we realized that these people would never have the means to buy a cold store themselves. Renting some space to take care of their harvest, however, was a possibility. And that’s how we came to propose ‘Pay as you store’. ‘Pay to save money’. And that’s how Agrotech Plus still works today.”
In addition, we are able also to know people need our solution through:
1.There is a positive reception in the market already for the Smallholder farmers that we’ve been able to engage. That’s a proof that they understand and that the solution is quite relatable with them.
2. We conducted a Survey for 1000 smallholder farmers in Western Kenya and Nyanza to let our targeted People explain themselves this helped us learn why people are using our product and the impact it’s creating.
3. Meeting them.
Once per week we schedule a phone call, Text message in local languages or meet in person with a customer and find out what they really like or don't like about what we offer. We have Flaged them in our CRM tool, Insightly and Salesforce as "favorites". Through tracking the farmers as I answer their issues, from this farmer have become Agrotech Plus biggest influencers.
4. Exhibit at a tradeshow.
This may seem like old school, but the data we got from talking to strangers was awesome. The cost benefit analysis can be great. We got in front of people who are not our customers and the questions they ask and how they perceived our solution showed us people really need our solution.
The benefits of our solution include the following: growing income of farmers through commercialization and access to better technologies, increasing resilience through climate smart production, risk diversification and access to financial tools from research and survey we are able to know that there is a big gap in the agriculture eco-system in provision of this service thus need of Agrotech Plus.
Which aspects of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Taking action to combat climate change and its impacts (Sustainability)
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
In what city, town, or region is your solution team located?Nairobi, Kenya
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
What makes your solution innovative?
Refrigeration can be used to extend shelf life but is non-existent in Nigerian farm clusters, aggregation centers, and the marketplace. Solutions need to be prepared to withstand the country’s expected increase in temperature due to climate change, between 1.3 to 2.8ºC in the following decades, and with partial mean monthly temperatures over 30ºC.
For most, traditional refrigeration solutions are not an option within reach. Furthermore, even when equipment is purchased, power grids do not deliver reliable energy: 60 percent of the rural population does not have access to electricity. This number becomes more significant if we consider reliable access.
Agrotech Plus's innovation addresses these challenges all at once. Our innovation, Agrotech Plus, is a “plug and play” modular, solar-powered walk-in cold room, for 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods. It adequately addresses the problem of post- harvest losses in fruits, vegetables and other perishable food. Agrotech Plus, is installed in major food production and consumption centers (in markets and farms), farmers place their produce in clean plastic crates, these plastic crates are stacked inside the cold room. This extends the freshness of fruits, vegetables and other perishable food from 2 days to about 21 days. The solar powered walk-in cold room is made of 120mm insulating cold room panels to retain cold. Energy from solar panels mounted on the roof-top of the cold room are stored in high capacity batteries, these batteries feeds an inverter which in turn feeds the refrigerating unit.
This innovation is also accompanied by digital remote monitoring of the goods stored inside each cold room. Critical variables such as solar irradiation, ambient and room temperature, door opening, energy storage, and loading and off-loading of food, among others, are constantly monitored to increase the effectiveness of the storage.
Our solution is unique because they are affordable and accessible.
We are creating a community storage unit where farmers do not need to pay the cost of the entire unit upfront and do not need expertise related to maintenance of the unit. Further, by making the technology solar powered we ensure that our solution is a net positive to the environment.
Agrotech Plus also integrates cold storage, market linkage and value-add processing activities into smallholder farmer value chains through an as-a-service proposition. We are one of the only in the market to offer first-mile off-grid Pay-as-you-Go cold storage with market linkage.
What are your impact goals for the next year, and how will you achieve them?
In the next 12 months, 5,000 farmers (50% women) will have access to cold storage solutions. Annually, 752 tons of CO2 will be reduced.
Agrotech Plus goal is to be present in all 47. Kenya produces 35 million tons of fruit and vegetables annually and 10 million smallholder farmers. The majority of them are women. Agrotech Plus is also looking to enter other sub-Saharan African countries. Its targets include Benin, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. The latter produces 22 million tons of fruits and vegetables annually and employs 33 million smallholder farmers.
Agrotech Plus aims to have 4 additional cold storage units in operation during the next one years, reaching over 5,000 farmers —
increasing their incomes by as much as 40% — and storing 500,000 kilograms of produce at any single time thus reducing food loss and wastage. 150 off taker relationships will established, we are also projecting to have more clients from other value chains include social enterprises, NGO, exporters, and supermarket chains. And in the next Four years, Agrotech Plus will scale to 30 additional counties in Kenya and have a presence in 2 new African countries, reaching over 30,000 smallholder farmers and traders.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
The solar powered walk-in cold room is made of 120mm insulating cold room panels to retain the low temperature. Energy from solar panels mounted on the roof-top of the cold room are stored in high capacity batteries which feed an inverter which in turn feeds the refrigerating unit.
Agrotech Plus’s s distribution infrastructure is managed through a digital platform that enables real-time, end to-end data collection. The platform is also integrated with mobile money (M-Pesa) to provide cashless payments throughout the value chain.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people does your solution currently serve, and how many do you plan to serve in the next year? If you haven’t yet launched your solution, tell us how many people you plan to serve in the next year.
In 2022, Agrotech Plus's 3 operational units saved 52,700 tons of produce from spoilage, making more safe, nutritious food available for consumption by Kenyans. By reducing post-harvest loss, Agrotech Plus also doubled the average household income of the 2,250 smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers it serves, from USD $60 to $120 per month. With the option to store food safely for longer, farmers are able to negotiate better prices for a higher quality product, leading to additional revenue gains.
In the next year, Agrotech Plus will scale to 5 additional communities in Kenya and have a presence in 2 new African countries, reaching over 32,000 smallholder farmers and traders.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?
First, Agrotech Plus, we are facing financial challenges to help us deploying ten more cold rooms to the western of Kenya. That brings our cold room numbers to 13. This will also also support us on our expansion. But the good thing is that we have 3 units of our cold rooms.
secondly, Because the majority of our customers are at the bottom of the pyramid, payments are often in cash. Because they are not digitally savvy, these traders do not know how to transfer money and are impatient using POS machines. They do not trust anything except cash payments. To them, that is when a transaction has occurred. As a result, cold room operators in each cold room are in pairs, an operator and a market attendant.
But even this is not sustainable as our cold room operators would have to handle a lot of cash. We are planning to scale from 3 cold rooms to about 32 cold rooms in this year and next year, and we think that at that scale, it will become tedious to monitor finances. As a cash-based business, we are looking at digital payment platforms that we can use, but our customers are not familiar with digital payment platforms. That is a challenge.
The Third challenge is that most of the markets we want to set up hubs in are densely populated, so it is hard to get land. For instance, getting land in Some parts of Kenya could take about three years due to back-and-forth negotiations. The most valuable asset in the market is a piece of land because where you are situated determines how successful your business will be.
How many people work on your solution team?
Full-time staff: 6, part-time staff :4, and other works: 7
How long have you been working on your solution?
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Agrotech Plus currently has two groups of partners for cold storage development and initial piloting:
The World Food Forum (WFF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) China Office, the Department of International Cooperation of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), the Center for International Agricultural Research of CAAS, and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) on technology development and a broader research partnership
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and The Zhejiang University, China are piloting the solution and using their capital and resources to support the deployments
What is your business model?
Agrotech Plus integrates cold storage, market linkage and value-add processing activities into smallholder farmer value chains through an as-a-service proposition. We are one of the only in the market to offer first-mile off-grid Pay-as-you-Go cold storage with market linkage. The innovation extends the shelf life of fruit and vegetables from two to 21 days and thus addresses the problem of post-harvest losses and increases profits.
Agrotech Plus enables agribusinesses, communities and smallholders to rent cold storage facilities. It has developed two different models: a flat monthly rental fee per cold storage (USD8,800 total revenue per cold storage per year), and a rental fee per kg stored per day (USD15,000 per cold storage per year). Agrotech Plus complements this service with market linkages and data analytics.
Agrotech Plus is expected to break-even in year 3 (post pilot) with 100 cold storages linked. In year 5, revenues are expected to be
Mission: To contribute achieving food security by preserving perishable products, uplifting and empowering local Kenyans communities, especially women through hiring mainly women to manage the operations and collection of revenue at Cold room stations . Annually, 752 tons of CO2 will be reduced.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Our business model will enable us to become self-sustainable within the next years of operation.
Farmers can rent a space in the cold store for a daily fee of $0.30 per 20 kilogram crate of produce, or take up a weekly subscription. They can also pay for the cold storage with crops instead of cash.
Agrotech Plus will also bring in money to fund our work through sustained donations and grants.