Although agriculture is central to most of sub-Saharan African countries, the food system remains insecure due to the significant losses of products such as milk, meat, and vegetables. The lack of food cold chains is due to energy poverty and unreliable power supply. The available mechanically driven vapour-compression cooling technologies are energy-intensive, utilise environmentally harmful gases (i.e. CFC and HCFC) and require capital investment unaffordable by smallholder farmers. These barriers hamper the development of agro-post-processing industries such as dairy, fruit ripening or preservation for export to key markets.
Africa is the sunniest continent on the earth, low-tech solar-driven cold store offers the required cooling with nearly free running cost. Nevertheless, barriers to the adoption of new technologies include capital and implementation costs and lack of familiarity with technology. Aston University jointly with the University of Rwanda will explore both the technological and commercial viability of implementing new solutions to solar-powered cooling chains.
The proposed solution centres on developing a standalone cold store using sorption-cooling technology, driven primarily by solar heat, and with minimal need for energy storages. We will design and optimise a solar system to provide continuous operation and develop a 1D numerical demonstration model. Alongside, we will collect data on the commercial viability of the investment, investigating the potential additional income generation through longer storage and the ability of accessing urban markets with higher price levels
In Alignment with GCRF goals, CL-Africa targets:
- Equitable Access to Sustainable Development.
- Secure and resilient food system.
- Sustainable health and wellbeing.
- Affordable, reliable, sustainable energy.
- Sustainable Economies and Society.
- Sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation.
- Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change.
- Sustainable cities and communities.
- Sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources.
In alignment with UN Goals:
- CL-Africa leads to a sustainable food cold chain to save million tons of wasted food under the current situation of inadequate food cold chain in SSA, which directly contributes to Goal 2 (zero hunger).
- Having resilient food cold chains will increase the market opportunities for smallholder farmers and improving their livelihood. They will be able to get their perishable product to urban markets, which directly contributes to Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth).
- The proposed technology is predominantly driven by solar heat as a clean renewable source, which is a stepping stone towards Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy).