Investors back InspiraFarms research to cut harvest losses in developing countries

The firm’s project features the installation of energy-efficient, small-scale refrigerated storage near the point of harvest to cut losses and drive investment across Africa, India and Latin America.

Shell Foundation and DFID are supporting the growth of InspiraFarms’ business and research in Kenya, Mexico, South Africa and India to solve key questions relating to cold storage technology which promises to cut post-harvest losses for fresh fruit and vegetables and boost investment in the area.

InspiraFarms aims to reduce harvest losses of up to 30 percent to 40 percent by introducing energy-efficient small-scale refrigerated storage close to the point of harvest to close the gap to distribution and enable market access to countries such as the UK. Potential value chains include French beans, avocados, bananas, berries, citrus fruit and tomatoes.

Investment in solar-powered cold storage is being secured to offer the technology to a broader base of food producers and distributers in the developing world. InspiraFarms announced in 2018 the successful closing of a €3 million Series-A2 investment round with Energy Access Ventures, Pymwymic and the DOEN Foundation, which join Factor(e) Ventures from the previous round. SunFunder has also provided up to €2 million of debt finance to enable InspiraFarms to provide asset finance to its customers in developing countries that are unable to raise capital.

In addition, Shell Foundation and the UK’s Department for international Development (DFID) have been supporting InspiraFarms with $1 million of grant capital to help scale up their Eastern Africa business, as well as conduct key research relating to the role of cold storage as essential to “First Mile Distribution” in emerging markets. Additional funds of $188,000 are being provided to InspiraFarms by the Shell Foundation and Inter-American Development Bank to pilot an innovative “pay-per-kilo” cooling, storage and ripening service to smallholder farmers in Mexico.

The Shell Foundation is a UK-registered charity that deploys up to $40 million of funding a year to create and scale business solutions that enhance access to energy and affordable transport for the low-income communities in emerging markets.

“We remain committed to supporting innovative ventures such as InspiraFarms as a means to help address some of the significant barriers smallholder farmers face,” said Jordan Broadbent from Shell Foundation at an event “The Future of Fresh” held last week in London. “We are also delighted to be able to leverage support from organizations such as DFID as we continue to deepen our work within energy and agriculture”

Speaking at the event, Dan Haglund from DFID said that the project is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger and malnutrition. “With 500 million smallholder farmers in developing countries who are unable to access refrigerated storage for fresh produce or find affordable financing solutions, the project offers a huge opportunity for the regions,” he stated. In Europe, around 95 percent of fresh produce is refrigerated compared with less than 3 percent in Africa, which demonstrates the huge potential of the project.

Jack Luft, Head of Corporate Partnerships at InspiraFarms said the project will also attract other investment in the area.

The 18-month project has three distinct phases: preparation, field work, and consolidation of materials into a final public-facing report with an event in London slated for Q2 of 2019.

Pilot projects with cold-storage systems by InspiraFarms are already under way in Guatemala and East Africa and are showing positive results, after impact investors such as the Andrews Charitable Trust provided start-up aid in the form of a returnable grant.

InspiraFarms, founded in 2012, aims to transform the global food industry by providing tools, technology and expertise to cut food losses, with headquarters in London and offices in Italy, East Africa and South Africa.