Skip to main content

Earth has a food waste problem. Can giant, solar-powered refrigerators help?

Will Hawkins/Digital Trends

This article is part of The Food Fight, a series that explores how the United Nations’ World Food Programme is using technology to battle food scarcity and put an end to hunger by 2030.

Hunger is one of the most prominent issues humans face worldwide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 820 million people currently suffer from a lack of food. That’s roughly one in nine people that go hungry every single day.

Since 2015, the number of people affected by the world’s food security epidemic has grown by about 35 million, with those living in developing countries impacted by it the most. Poverty, food shortages, and climate change all contribute to the issue, but one major issue plays a role in all of those factors — food waste.


Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America lose about 40% of their food after harvesting and during processing. And 45% of the spoilage is a result of a lack of cold storage. If that sounds like needless food waste, that’s because it is. It’s an issue that can’t be easily remedied by purchasing a fridge as we do here in the states. With 840 million people having no access to electricity, and many of them living in poverty, the answer to this problem isn’t so crystal clear.

Fortunately, a little invention called ColdHubs could be a solution.

Solar-powered refrigerators

Maybe electric refrigerators don’t work. That’s fine. They aren’t all that great for the environment anyway. But what if we ditched the Freon and made them solar-powered? ColdHubs does exactly that.

Using cheap and readily-available insulated panels, these solar-powered walk-in cold rooms provide a temperate place for farmers to store their vegetables, fruits, and other perishable foods. Using a “flexible pay-as-you-store subscription” to sustain the stations, farmers can stash away their produce neatly in the reusable crates, dramatically increasing shelf life from two days to 21 days.

Cold Hubs

ColdHubs estimates it can decrease food waste by a whopping 80%. This will help local farmers increase their income, and bring more nutrition-rich foods to hungry people in the countries that need it most. With up to 80% of the food in the developing world provided by small farms, ColdHubs is not only trying to curb hunger in these countries but is also supporting global markets (you can thank them for that smoothie you had for breakfast later).

ColdHubs estimates it will decrease food waste by a whopping 80%.

It is also creating more job opportunities for women. ColdHubs primarily hires women to work at its stations, which may seem like a small gesture, but it’s actually a big step toward a much more important goal. The FAO reports that by giving women farmers access to the same resources as men, the number of people starving globally could drop by 100 million to 150 million. Now, who said the future isn’t female?

Extending support

Founded in Nigeria by farmer/innovator Nnaemeka C. Ikegwuonu, ColdHubs is first doing its work in Africa with the hope it can extend its support to other developing countries in the world.

Cold Hubs

“We are home to the largest tomato production belt in west Africa, yet farmers are losing more than 50% of their crops due to lack of cold storage. So we came up with solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms which can extend the life of food up to 21 days, and my goal is to push these hubs to all developing countries.” Ikegwuonu told The Guardian.

With help from the German Society of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, the solar-powered refrigerators use powerful batteries that when fully charged, have the ability to run a unit for up to three days without sunlight, increasing a ColdHubs’ ability to thrive in even the most overcast of locations.

ColdHubs is just one of the many ways people are helping tackle the world’s problems with hunger. If you’re interested in learning more, several organizations like the United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, Feed the Future, and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development have initiatives that inform and take steps toward causes directly related to improving food security for people all over the world.

Editors' Recommendations

Felicia Miranda
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Born in '89 and raised through the 90s, I experienced what I consider to be the golden age of video games. At an early age, I…
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more