Heifer International’s sponsored Agritech storage solution, ColdHubs, was formally introduced into the Lagos market on Thursday with the launch of the facility for smallholder farmers and sellers of perishable farm products at the ABAT CBD Market in Ibeju-Lekki.
The Cold Hubs innovation, which is being sponsored on a large scale by Heifer International, is part of the measures to increase storage capacity and ensure last-mile connectivity to prevent post-harvest losses experienced by small-holder farmers and to ensure food security in Nigeria.
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have variously attributed the lack of storage and processing facilities as one of the major problems facing agricultural development in Nigeria, stating that post-harvest activities like storage must be given the right inputs.
At the launch which was witnessed by farmers, farm product traders, and government officials, Rufus Idris, Country Director of Heifer International, Nigeria, explained that ColdHubs innovation will help Nigeria to attain food sufficiency and reduce hunger. It will enhance the capacity of farmers and sellers of perishable farm produce to earn more income and also reduce unemployment.
Rufus Idris noted that young entrepreneurs across Africa have the capacity to develop homegrown solutions that will support farmers across the continent and encourage young people to develop a keen interest in the agriculture sector.
According to him, Heifer International believes that one of the ways to end hunger and poverty is to intervene in agriculture by reducing post-harvest losses incurred by farmers and removing the pressure that forces traders to sell their produce below cost price.
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“We want to do our part to help young innovators deploy tech innovations that will boost farming and food production and provide smallholder farmers with the support they require to grow a sustainable, profitable business,” Idris said.
Heifer International expressed its commitment to invest in smallholder farmers, youth and women, innovation and new technologies to unlock opportunities within the agricultural sector with a view to unleashing Nigeria’s potential for food self-sufficiency, increasing local production to meet rising local demands while closing the living income gap for smallholder farmers and households living in poverty.
Heifer International will this year support ColdHubs to produce additional ColdHubs facilities in Lagos markets out of a total of 40 planned for the year.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the founder and CEO of ColdHubs, Mr Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, said: “We are inspired by the need to provide storage solutions for smallholder farmers who have no way of keeping their produce fresh, forcing them to sell it soon after harvest. With support from Heifer International, we are expanding our affordable, pay-as-you-go refrigeration option and making it available right in the middle of local markets.”
He noted further that “post-harvest loss is huge in Nigeria but with ColdHubs’ innovation, we have gotten production and processing of farm produce right. The facility will surely increase farmers’ economic earning power and also help buyers as they will always have fresh and healthy farm produce to buy.”
According to him, the $500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand US Dollars) prize money from the AYuTe Africa Challenge has been the major catalyst for his firm’s innovation. The company has now launched an ambitious expansion strategy.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Adesola Olusanya, said at the occasion that ColdHubs is of paramount importance to the state and it is in line with the five-year Development programme drawn by the state in 2021 to ensure food security and sufficiency for Lagos residents.
The Commissioner, who was represented by Mr Emmanuel Audu, a Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Head of Lagos State Agriculture Training Institute, added that farmers work hard but do not derive enough income for their labour because of post-harvest losses, are often forced to sell their produce at low prices for lack of storage facility.
‘’With ColdHubs, farmers will now have better returns for their efforts with huge multiplier effects”, the Commissioner stated.
She further disclosed that Lagos State craves more innovations in the agriculture value chain to reduce its reliance on other states to feed Lagosians, adding that “we need similar interventions for the fishing communities in the state.”
ColdHubs is a compact, walk-in, solar-powered coolers placed at produce markets for keeping farm produce fresh for days and weeks. The transportable, stand-alone unit also gives local farmers an affordable, pay-as-you-go option to store their farm produce. The unit’s solar panels are connected to a battery storage system that allows the coolers to operate completely off the grid 24 hours a day.
ColdHubs’ solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms eliminate food spoilage; increase the income of farmers, retailers and wholesalers; and make safe, nutritious and hygienic food available for local consumption.
In 2021, the founder of ColdHubs was one of the winners of the inaugural AYuTe Africa Challenge sponsored by Heifer International. The AYuTe Africa Challenge has been identifying and partnering with young agritech innovators in various Heifer countries to increase visibility for growth and improve smallholder farmers’ productivity.