Philippines-based Agritech startup company iFarms, Inc. is seeking sustainable cold chain equipment to help its network of smallholder farmers reduce food waste in the Philippines.
“I really firmly believe that we need to integrate micro solutions where the produce is at,” said Jairus Ferrer, Founder and CEO of iFarms, which has recently developed and launched the Umá app – an online direct B2B marketplace for farmers and businesses. It is available at https://uma.ph/.
Ferrer described his plans during ATMOsphere Asia 2020, held November 17-18. The online ATMOsphere Asia conference was organized by shecco (publisher of this website).
Ferrer said that while there are a significant number of cold storage facilities in the Philippines, they are mainly being used by big companies and are located in major metropolitan areas. By contrast, Ferrer and his team work with smallholder farmers in rural areas to help streamline order processing, establish good handling practices and distribute their goods to businesses and consumers.
“We’re excited and looking forward to collaborating more with companies and communities as well as international partners like this [ATMOsphere Asia] community,” said Ferrer.
He described “a big opportunity” in the Philippines to go outside the major metropolitan areas to rural communities and see “what the basic needs are” and identify the cold chain tools that can be integrated.
The use of cold chain equipment will help extend the longevity of smallholder farmers’ products, he said. “By putting all these efficiencies in place one by one, we are hoping to lessen the wastage in the [food] value chain.”
He noted that there are thousands of other agricultural products that can be planted in the Philippines. “But the question is, who will buy?” said Ferrer. “We’re hoping that our platform will help answer this question and hopefully activate more idle land in the country.”
Solar-Powered R290 Cold Rooms for Produce
An example of sustainable cold chain technology deployed in rural areas on a small scale for farmers was covered in a presentation given on the second day of ATMO Asia by Dimitris Karamitsos, Senior Energy Efficiency Business Developer, Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE).
Karamitsos spoke about the Cooling as a Service (CaaS) initiative, a global effort launched in early 2019 to scale up investments in clean and efficient cooling by allowing business owners to pay for cooling as a service rather than investing in the equipment that delivers the cooling.
Karamitsos highlighted a cooling service provider in Nigeria named ColdHubs which uses small solar-powered cold rooms using R290 as a refrigerant to extend the shelf life of farmer produce immediately after harvest.
“Today, ColdHubs has about 24 units [in operation] around Nigeria and they have been able to reduce food waste by 50% and increase farmer wages by 50%,” said Karamitsos. “So [CaaS] really was a massive shift for this market and also enabled farmers to get access to this technology.”