“The consequences of food loss are devastating. In Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, 470 million smallholder farmers lose about 25 percent of their annual income because of spoiled food.”
On the one hand, industrialized economies have high levels of “food waste,” where retailers throw food away on aesthetic grounds, and consumers do the same because they buy more than they can eat. On the other hand, developing economies have higher levels of “food loss,” where food is unintentionally wasted, typically because of inadequate transportation and storage options. Here, more than 40% of the food loss occurs at the post-harvest and processing levels, the UN organization estimates.
Perishable goods start spoiling right after harvest – losing weight, texture, flavor, and appeal, as well as nutritional and financial value. The consequences for people and the planet are devastating. And farmers, retailers, and wholesalers who lack access to cooling storage are hit the hardest. In Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, 470 million smallholder farmers lose about 25% of their annual income because of spoiled food. In the blistering heat of the tropics, it’s practically impossible to keep food fresh without refrigeration.
Food loss contributes to malnutrition and hunger too. Research on the type of food prepared for school children in Nigeria, where ColdHubs operates, suggests that quickly perishable foods are underrepresented, with access to cool storage facilities being critical for increasing their share. An international study found similar results. It identified lack of storage as a frequent constraint on the provision of fruit and vegetables in 11 out of 18 surveyed middle-income countries.
Furthermore, food waste and loss cause about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, unnecessarily wasting land and resources. Despite a shortage of research on sustainable “cold food chains” in general — and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular — it is highly plausible that solar-powered food-cooling solutions would significantly reduce food loss with low energy and carbon footprint.