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The Global LEAP Off-Grid Cold Chain Challenge (OGCCC) – a competition to develop innovative and energy-efficient off-grid cold storage technology – launched in Nairobi, Kenya this week. 

Part of the UK Department for International Development’s (DfID)’s Ideas to Impact programme, the OGCCC will offer £250,000 ($351,587) in prizes for off-grid cold chain technologies deployed in select Sub-Saharan African countries.

Competition prizes

The goal of the competition is to stimulate innovation and investment in the sector and help to drive market development, bringing prices down for those who need it most.

Innovation prizes of up to £50,000 ($70,294) will be awarded to cold storage technologies that demonstrate energy efficiency, off-grid appropriateness, scalability and feasibility of deployment, with opportunities for further development.

Shortlisted technologies will receive an innovation prize of £10,000 ($14,061) to cover shipping and set-up costs. Nominations close 26 May 2018 with shortlisted technologies announced in September 2018 for product testing and verification, and final prize winners revealed in March 2019.

Off-grid cold storage

Cold storage facilities are a crucial link in the chain from farmer to table, and ensure that food products such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products stay fresh with minimal waste.

In developing countries, extensive and reliable cold storage is often out of reach for the most vulnerable links in the chain – smallholder farmers and small traders – due to cost and a lack of access to reliable electricity.

With the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimating that more than 40% of food losses occur during post-harvest and processing in developing countries, creating reliable and extensive cold chains is crucial for food security and economic development. Establishing sustainable and energy-efficient cold chains would enable these countries to raise food supply by 15% – about 250 million tonnes.

“Lack of proper temperature management and cold storage causes farmers in off-grid areas to suffer significant post-harvest food loss, leading to reduced profits and increased vulnerability. A commercially sustainable cold chain would allow farmers to diversify production to include high-value perishable crops, link them to regional and international markets, and increase earnings.

“In addition, cold chain facilities would create opportunities for labour, services, and value-added processing for perishable products,” says Simon Collings, Energy Access Theme Lead, Ideas to Impact and Director of Learning and Innovation at Energy 4 Impact.

Benefits

Deployment of off- and weak-grid cold storage solutions is also likely to have other social impacts such as empowerment for women, and improvement in health. Read more: Energy 4 Impact, a trailblazer for mini-grid development and ownership

Cold storage facilities can be an insulated pre-fabricated cold room, a brick-and-mortar cold room, or a modified shipping container with appropriate air-conditioning or refrigeration system, as long as they can provide cooling and refrigeration for storing produce or dairy products and are powered primarily using renewable energy sources.

The OGCCC has been developed in partnership with Energy 4 Impact with support from Ideas to Impact, a DfID-funded programme that uses innovation prizes to stimulate solutions to development challenges across energy access, climate change adaptation and water, sanitation and hygiene, and Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid initiative.