solar energy initiativeSolar energy is a sustainable source and is considered to be the most cost-effective energy form in history. A solar energy initiative to convert solar power into electricity takes less time and power than any other method of energy conversion. The sun’s function as a free resource also contributes to this fact, and as a result, many organizations have recently taken advantage of solar energy. SokoFresh is a company that provides smallholder Kenyan farmers with “mobile cold storage units that run on 100% solar energy.” This makes cold storage facilities more accessible to lower-income farmers, reducing food waste and increasing the prosperity of Kenyan farmers.

The Negative Impact of Food Waste

Over the next 30 years, Africa’s population is estimated to increase from 15% to 25% of the world population. However, as the population grows, dire food shortages are likely to occur. One way to prevent this is by reducing food waste. Globally, more than 30% of food produced for human consumption is wasted or discarded. In Africa, food loss happens predominately in the production and distribution phases of the food system. In developed countries, more than 40% of food loss “occurs at the retail and consumer levels.”

To combat food waste in Africa, post-harvest storage is a sustainable method for preventing food loss. SokoFresh has constructed a post-harvest storage system that specifically utilizes solar energy. The method is simple as it makes for cost-effective and environmentally friendly food storage. This model can provide farmers and aggregators access to cold storage on “a need basis” using 100% solar energy.

At this point, there is no long-term data to monitor improvements in the region’s food waste. Yet, it is clear that current projects from sustainable companies such as SokoFresh have the potential to benefit Africa’s economy. Even a 1% reduction in food post-harvest losses could lead to yearly fiscal revenue of $40 million, mainly to the benefit of farmers. Solar energy and sustainable technology solutions are thus feasible methods that increase profitability and improve environmental impacts in developing nations.

Solar Energy’s Role

SokoFresh’s solar energy initiative centers on a business model that gives farmers in need access to storage for their produce. Built by the social venture studio Enviu as part of its FoodFlow program, SokoFresh can provide adequate storage conditions that supply significant market opportunities. Smallholder farmers are responsible for 90% of Kenya’s agricultural produce but lack the cold storage access that large-scale farms have. The smallholder farmers who grow avocado, mango and French beans help test the “pay-as-you-go cold storage units.”

Another solar energy innovation utilizes food waste in its technology. AuREUS is an invention created by Carvey Maigue from Mapua University in the Philippines. Utilizing “recycled crop waste,” Maigue created a compound mixed with resin to make panels that collect UV light. The panels can turn the captured light into electricity. Solutions like these provide alternative methods to traditional coal and gas methods of power. Thus, AuREUS and SokoFresh bring great promise for the future of sustainable energy.

The Future of SokoFresh

Because solar energy is the most affordable energy source, a solar energy initiative such as that of SokoFresh provides a hopeful alternative to developing countries experiencing food loss and waste. While international efforts to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa have increased, most of the money has focused on boosting crop yields. A shift is now underway as companies are aiming to reduce losses instead of increasing production. SokoFresh provides an innovative solution to this problem by harnessing the power of solar energy. The future of solar energy in Kenya is hopeful. With more exposure and funding, SokoFresh can eliminate food waste and improve the nation’s wealth.

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr