For over a decade now, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu has been producing radio shows for smallholder farmers in the rural southern region of Nigeria. These agricultural programmes are broadcasted on the Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio – a community station he established in 2003, when he was just 21 years old.
As a vegetable farmer himself, Ikegwuonu has first-hand experience of the huge post-harvest losses incurred because of a lack of cold storage. In Nigeria, it is estimated about 60% of smallholder farmers’ fruits and vegetables spoil due to inadequate storage and agro-processing facilities.
Ikegwuonu is addressing this challenge with ColdHubs – a solar-powered walk-in cold-room solution aimed at farmers, retailers, and wholesalers. The cold rooms are installed at major food production and consumption centres, such as markets and farms.
The idea for the venture came from a radio interview he did with a cabbage seller.
“I was going to interview a young man who came with a J5 truck full of cabbage. However, a few hours to the close of market, I couldn’t find him except for his truck of cabbage,” Ikegwuonu recalls.
When Ikegwuonu went looking for him the next day, he saw that the seller had just three baskets of cabbage left.
“I asked him why he left a J5 truck full of cabbage unattended to and he told me the cost of taking it home doesn’t make any sense. It is better it waste there or let the driver of the J5 find someone who will buy it to cover the cost. And I was thinking, in the south-east of Nigeria, that is a lot of money!”
Ikegwuonu questioned the young man on what could be done to make his business better. The cabbage seller told him, “If there is a way to preserve foodstuff in the market, he would have kept it there, sell a little bit of cabbage as much as he can sell in a day and pay for storage until he finishes his sales.”