Electricity-free refrigeration preserving food


Friday, September 22, 2017

The FAO estimates that as much as 45% of fruits and vegetables grown in Africa spoils before it is eaten, a total loss of $4 billion USD annually. For a continent which is facing up to 4 famines this year, along with mass food insecurity, this wastage is excruciating. This food spoilage is in part due to the lack of access to affordable and reliable refrigeration storage. Many households in the developing world simply have no way of storing foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meaning that they must choose between more shelf-stable, less nutritious foods, or visiting a market multiple times per week for more nutritious food which quickly spoils.


Evaptainers, mobile and modular evaporative coolers, are the world’s first mobile “zero-energy” refrigeration systems (cooling systems that require no external electricity) that are ideal for low-income, off-grid areas. Evaporative cooling as a technique has been employed successfully for centuries in products like the Pot-in-Pot refrigerator or Coolgardie safe. Proven to be effective for cooling perishable foods, these devices have been known to triple or quadruple the shelf-life of most produce.


Using state-of-the art materials and improved design, Evaptainers has created a more effective and scalable clean energy refrigeration solution, enabling the cool chain to reach further than ever before. The technology has the potential to usher in a wide range of benefits. Populations who do not have refrigerators will now have access to a shelf-life enhancing device that would keep their perishables cool and reduce the amount of travel they are doing to the markets and keep their fruit and vegetables longer. Using just water and sunlight, the Evaptainer would be appropriate for the 654 million people living without electricity in Africa and South Asia, saving billions of dollars in waste, and reducing the risk of hunger for many.


Evaptainers have been designed with the end-user in mind. They are low-cost to ensure that the technology is accessible to most consumers; lightweight to allow for easy distribution; flat-packable so that beneficiaries may take them with them when they return home or resettle; and require very little water (~1 litre/day) so that the benefits can be realised even in low-water areas.


Evaptainers is currently field-testing prototypes in Morocco. Working closely with households in a range of climatic areas the team is collecting anecdotal evidence of how beneficiaries use the devices and how the design can be improved in future products. Early results from the trial show an average household saves 5-10% of monthly income as beneficiaries are able to make one weekly trip to the market compared to 2-3 prior to use of the Evaptainer. A large-scale field trial will begin in late 2017 in Morocco. This field trial will incorporate a rigorous collection of monitoring and evaluation data that can be used to finalise the human-centred design of the units. Working with partners in a variety of locations globally Evaptainers is investigating all the possible benefits of a simple yet effective technology that allows even the lowest-income households to prevent post-harvest food spoilage.


If you’d like to collaborate with Evaptainers or learn more, please contact Serena at [email protected].


LAUNCH is a network-centered innovation platform founded on the belief that the challenges of today are too big to be solved by any one organisation alone. LAUNCH is committed to creating a better human experience through innovations that optimize global systems toward abundance, dignity, and beauty. Powered by SecondMuse, LAUNCH was founded in 2009 by NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and Nike, Inc. Visit launch.org to learn more.