Written by Staff Writer at CNN
A refrigerated shipping container warehouse in south-eastern Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana is a bustling shipping center, despite its near-isolation.
In one corner, a mid-sized ship arrives, refueling and pulling up. Small electric motors fill in the gaps of the interior boxes, including intricate LED solar panels for decoration. It’s around this time of year, when the cargo container is loaded with vegetable oil.
Built in November 2014, the warehouse has been handling vegetable oil for clients to fill up their refrigerated containers. It boasts a power supply and a cool climate, allowing the firm to keep food fresh.
It’s called ColdHubs , and it’s the fruit of a collaboration between a small Dutch greenhouse and a consortium of African multinationals. Together, they have built ten fully-equipped warehouses that test new ways of storing and preserving food.
“It (the warehouse) is very good because you can see how good the plantain is fresh, and it gets hot in the summer,” fruit trader Rosa Buus said.
Food storage has been a challenge in Africa for decades, with challenging locations (typically climate extremes) and limited finance to invest in new alternatives. But as refrigeration systems become more commonplace, local growers are able to learn from other regions’ experiences.
ColdHubs currently stores and stores produce on its own. But its future plans involve building two regional warehouses to also serve as food warehouses. There, customers will come to the cold network, pick up their products, and then drive to their towns and markets where their farmers are located.
According to the data firm, Digital Farming, Africa’s food production will not be able to keep up with the continent’s growing population if it cannot increase its storage capacity. Current storage capacity is valued at $5 billion but as the population grows, demand for storage is expected to increase by $24 billion, it said.
“In the mid-1990s or early 2000s, there were no refrigerated warehouses (in Africa) that were refrigerated in the Africa market,” said Andoni Okolobo, CEO of CoolZooms , the African cooperative involved in the refrigeration network.
“Today, we have hundreds of them, and they are more common than you would think,” he said.
A recent study by World Bank found that developing countries could grow into warehouses that can reach 11 million tonnes of surplus food.