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Refrigeration merchandising in Nigeria: Profiling Koolboks’ start-up model

Refrigeration merchandising in Nigeria: Profiling Koolboks’ start-up model

What could be more worrying and debilitating for small businesses and homes, particularly in a continent like Africa, for an investor to wake up and find out that his/her perishable items for sale in his freezer have all gone bad due to absence of electricity supply?

where the citizens have readily come to terms with the reality of not having electricity, while businesses have at the same time found it difficult to even break even given the high cost of not only generating set but diesel to power the same.

This is what Koolboks, a French tech startup with a focus on serving a Nigerian market and making cooling affordable and accessible to all, is out to achieve using geospatial technology and solar power to provide sustainable refrigeration in not only Nigeria but Africa.

This modest French based company comes up with solar-powered freezers that depend less on public power but more on solar energy to power the products. It then means that without public electricity, small business owners and homes have no issue effectively storing and managing their perishable goods.

Mr. Dominic Ayoola, the co-founder of this innovation, said more on this: “Basically Koolboks is a French startup that intends to democratise the way the world experiences cooling. Our mission is to make cooling affordable and accessible to everyone that needs it. So today, in Africa, we have three significant challenges.

“One; 40% of food is wasted in emerging markets; also, we have about five out of every ten patients that get to die due to vaccine spoilage. Two; we know that affording a refrigerator is usually expensive and when you have it, there is no electricity.

“Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa today lack access to electricity and therefore lack access to refrigeration. And when they even have refrigeration, the cost of owning one is usually an uneasy task. Because after getting a refrigerator, they typically have to get a generator and then you start buying fuel to be able to run your refrigerator.

“Thirdly, of course, most of the refrigerants that are being used are dangerous refrigerants. They have been banned in the West, and these are 80,000 times more dangerous than carbon, but that is what still exists in African countries,” he said.

As an innovation to recreate a cooling system and offers a variety of other advantages, Koolboks creates an affordable off-grid solution that is able to generate continuous refrigeration for up to four days, even in the absence of power and limited sunlight.

“And this we did by storing energy in the form of ice, rather than in just batteries.

“The unit can function as a refrigerator or as a freezer. It can also function as a source of lighting for households and shops.

“It is meant specifically for off-grid areas and comes with 2 LED lighting bulbs and USB ports for charging mobile phones,” Ayoola continued.

As part of the huge advantage of using Koolboks refrigerator, the product, according to the company, has been fashioned to make sure it gets to every home with easy-to-pay delivery method.

“No one should be deprived of refrigeration because of cost. Koolboks with its innovative embedded paygo technology is able to offer distributors the opportunity to be able to offer the Koolhome freezers on a lease to own to their customers,” said Deborah Gael, one of the founders of the innovation.

She said further: “Thanks to Koolboks, individuals and shop owners are able to pay in small monthly or weekly installments to own a solar refrigerator.”

It was further revealed that as small as twelve thousand naira could be paid in instalments by a buyer while using the product.

Recently, the company announced a deployment of a whopping $2.5 million to push the products.

The funding round, led by Nigeria-based growth equity fund Aruwa Capital Management, also included participation from Acumen, Blue Earth Capital, All On, GSMA, and other investors.

Meanwhile, with huge suspects of products that pride themselves as having strong batteries, Nigerians might be sceptical on the dependability of the batteries but Ayoola provided the answer, saying “Koolboks compliment Ice batteries with integrated Lithium-ion batteries.

“The lithium batteries are integrated in the freezer giving you a single compact system devoid of messy cables.

“Lithium batteries provide an ideal solution for renewable energy storage. Their chemistry is often superior to its alternative chemistry, such as lead batteries.”

“Lithium-ion batteries have high energy density, low maintenance, performance and longevity, and versatility.

“It’s a whole lot of possibilities and interested people can reach out to us through our website for more information on how they can get this one-in-all product for their homes,” he said.

On energy storage, the product has a created compartment for storing power to service it at night.

“We created Ice compartments in the refrigerator cabinets. So that during the day, when the sun is available, which is often the case in Africa, Ice is made in these compartments.

“And at night, when the sun is no longer available, energy switches internally to the ice, maintaining the temperature of the cabinet till the next day when the sun is available again.

“Thanks to this technology we ‘ve been able to bring down the cost of owning an off-grid solar refrigerator by close to 40%,” he noted.

Meanwhile, thanks to the power of the sun and water, which is very abundant in Africa, Koolboks created an off-grid solar refrigerator that can generate refrigeration for up to four days in the absence of power, and even, in the presence of limited sunlight.

It achieved this through a technology called Ice thermal storage, where the product stores energy in the form of ice other than in batteries. Like said earlier, whether or not there is NEPA (power supply), “you can get refrigeration. And whether or not you have sunlight, you can get refrigeration for up to four days, non-stop,” he noted.

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