Most rural dwellers in Ghana rely on farming for their livelihoods, but post-harvest losses greatly hinder their progress and reduce their earnings. Official figures show that between 34-45% of fruits and vegetables are lost before getting to the market.
Siabi Paul Senaye, the founder and CEO of WorldTech Consult, saw an opportunity to solve this problem. He and his staff members have a cumulative experience of 40 years in the cold chain industry, energy efficiency and customer service. They have executed many successful projects. The company designs, manufactures and installs solar-powered walk-in cold rooms that extend the shelf life of perishables.
The company rolled out the EcoRecharge Coldroom in 2020 to help reduce post-harvest losses, increase net income for small-holder farmers, create jobs for young people and reduce the carbon footprint of local communities.
“We came up with this solution because of the lack of cold storage facilities in rural areas, which contributes to post-harvest losses of fruits, vegetables and other perishables. There is also a lack of reliable electricity, which is why our cold rooms are solar-powered,” said Mr Senaye.
The EcoRecharge Coldrooms are portable and mobile, which means they can be transported to any area no matter how remote. The company is also able to monitor the cold rooms remotely. Another innovative thing about the cold rooms is that they use reusable vegetable crates instead of wooden ones.
“We offer a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription model to small-scale farmers, who pay $0.33 per each reusable vegetable crate per night. Their produce is labelled, stacked and kept in our crates, which greatly increases the shelf life. This means they don’t have to hire out an entire cold room,” said Mr Senaye.
WorldTech Consult has over the past two years installed three cold rooms, with 65 more under construction, 20 of them for the German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ). One cold room costs $23,000 and some are highly customised based on the customers’ specifications.
The company has made an impact, especially in hot and humid rural areas, where farmers had long resigned themselves to the fate of losing their produce or selling it at throwaway prices before it went bad.
One of the major challenges the company has faces is lack of access to funds, with institutions such as the British Council coming in handy to provide grants that have enabled them to keep their operations running.
Another challenge has been few people have the required skills the company needs. This lack of highly-skilled personnel has limited the mass production of cold rooms. However, they have managed to hire a structural engineer who has been instrumental, especially in training young people in the community.
The company plans to scale up its operations by partnering with NGOs, investors, donors, government institutions, corporates and farmer groups.
“We will showcase our innovative solutions at exhibitions in order to raise awareness about our work,” said Mr Senaye.
The company aims to reduce the carbon footprint of local communities by reducing food waste, while also boosting the incomes of smallholder farmers.