Last year, we received a Technology Commercialization Grant as part of the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program and launched an initiative in Honduras to bring affordable cold storage to smallholder farmers. Now, we’re starting the ball rolling on a similar initiative in Guatemala.
Read on to learn more about the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program and how Store It Cold is working to eliminate hunger by reducing food loss.
The Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program is a partnership between USAID and Fintrac that “invests in companies and organizations that are looking to engage smallholder farmers in the global agricultural marketplace.” The Technology Commercial Grants aim “to give 350,000 smallholder farmers access to affordable technologies to help them in areas ranging from improved yields and animal health and productivity to reduced postharvest loss.”
It’s that last area where the CoolBot comes in. By providing affordable cold storage, we’re helping smallholder farmers reduce postharvest loss — enabling them to make a living and feed their families.
Here’s why cold storage matters:
- Globally, 40-50% of root crops, fruits, and vegetables are lost or wasted.
- In developing countries, 40% of losses occur at postharvest and processing.
- The food lost in Latin America alone is enough to feed 300 million people.
With cold storage, smallholder farmers can keep their produce fresh longer. This means they can sell more of their crops and make more money by controlling when the go to market. “Sometimes, just holding their produce in cold storage for a few days means they can get a better price for it than they would otherwise,” says Brian Lysaught, Store It Cold’s Director of International Business Development.
So far, we’ve sold dozens of CoolBots in Honduras. Because they don’t have the same kind of DIY movement as we have here in the United States, we’ve partnered with a local cooler manufacturer to develop a turnkey unit that contains everything a farmer needs: a CoolBot, an air conditioner, and the cooler box itself. These units are currently in use at smallholder farms, agricultural sites, and restaurants.
A CoolBot is also being used at a seed bank to keep the seeds cool and more viable for the next planting season. According to the Global Cold Chain Alliance, vegetable seeds can be stored for up to 12 months at 41°F (5°C) or lower, while peanuts and tree nut seeds can last for 3 years or more in cold storage. Several studies have also found that a period of cold storage increases seed germination rates.
Now, we’re taking what we’ve learned in Honduras and expanding our operations to Guatemala. Again, our target market is smallholder farmers, as well as associations and exporters that support these farmers. We’re focusing on farmers who grow high-value export crops, like French beans, sugar snap peas, squash, and broccoli.
|Fun Facts: Guatemala is one of the world’s leading suppliers of broccoli, both fresh and frozen (source). In 2015, the United States imported more than $1.25 billion worth of fruits and vegetables from Guatemala — largely bananas and cantaloupes (source).|
In March, our Honduras-based team traveled to the Agritrade Expo that took place in La Antigua, Guatemala, to give farmers, distributors, exporters, and associations a first look at the technology. We’re currently hiring sales reps, as well as securing distribution agreements and cooler manufacturing partners. And we’re planning more Demo Days to ensure we reach as many people with the technology as possible.
We’re honored humbled to play a small role in helping to reduce global food loss and open up possibilities for smallholder farmers to thrive. Our plan is to provide quarterly updates on these initiatives and our other activities under the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program, so be sure to check back soon!