Portfolio Learning

InspiraFarms’ Cooling-as-a-Service: How to scale cold storage solutions for smallholder farmers in SSA

Many people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) earn their living as smallholder farmers – providing food for their families and produce to sell on.  However, lack of cold storage means that crops can become inedible within a short time, contributing to large amounts of food waste and minimising smallholder farmers’ earnings from their hard work.

With support from Shell Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as part of our CASEE partnership, cold storage provider InspiraFarms has been developing market-leading first-mile solutions for agricultural value chains.

InspiraFarms, recent research report –  focuses on understanding and accelerating the involvement and influence of smallholder farmers within these value chains to directly support rural development and climate mitigation.  The report looks at the barriers that smallholder farmers face in accessing cold storage facilities and provides key recommendations accelerate the adoption of  solutions.

It was agreed by many stakeholders taking part in the research that although access to cold storage provides smallholder farmers and agricultural businesses with a competitive advantage, affordability and accessibility remain key barriers to take-up.  It was found that Cooling-as-a-service (CaaS) alongside financing would be the most feasible ways for smallholders to gain access to cold storage facilities.

The findings of the research match those of InspiraFarms’ experience. They found that relying on partnerships with local players for distribution improves effectiveness, and that the utilisation rate of the cold storage units was a determining factor for the commercial viability of CaaS businesses.  Access could be further improved by stakeholders supporting the scale-up of last-mile cold storage, such as:

  • Governments and development partners facilitating private sector investments;
  • Distributed cold storage distributors investing in local engagement;
  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships developed between local agribusinesses, producer organisations, solution providers, government and financiers, with the needs of the local actors at the forefront; and
  • Conducting further research to strengthen the evidence base of the impact of the technology, and piloting to identify additional value and reduce risk for all value chain stakeholders.

Read the research