Is 24hr Cold Storage Possible Without Constant Power? We think we’ve cracked the code
What’s the most consistent thing every Nigerian business complains about? Well, there are a lot of complaints, but for the purpose of this article, the correct answer is: “The lack of constant power.”
As a business who is faced with needing some cold storage to improve the quality of our products, we decided to scour the world to see if we could replicate a system that works for the Nigerian environment. In other words, could we achieve 24 hr cold storage in a country without 24 hr power.
TLDR: We can… or so we think
Like every other agribusiness on this side of the world, we have suffered preventable loss of products due to the absence of having 24-hour cold storage. As we expand our reach to more regions, and our products travel further across country, we saw how the lack of cold storage would continue to negatively impact us. Our biggest disincentive was always the upfront and running costs of building and kitting out a cold room. Besides the high upfront fixed cost of converting a room to a cold room, we weren’t sure we would be able to afford powering it 24/7.
The ‘solutions’ we came across were not only expensive but immovable [i.e. fixed to our current location]. After getting quotes that were more than triple our initial budget, we decided to look far and wide for solutions from other countries like ours.
Thanks to our ever-curios team, we spent hours online researching solutions from other markets and stumbled on the Cold Bot- a simple, DIY technology that claimed to be convert a regular AC into a cold room. This obviously sounded too good to be true, but reading countless reviews, including some from farmers in India claimed to maintain cold storage despite only one hour of power supply, we were sold. We found the system but were not sure what the best way to “house” it would be.
We kept on reading and researching; Our CEO even leveraged Twitter to “crowd source” knowledge, and that we did.
Lady luck smiled on us. We found an entrepreneur locally who had installed the system and assured us that it works. He also let us come and see it for ourselves gave us the genius idea to house it in a cold reefer. BEST. DECISION. EVER! Thank you, Shola for being so gracious!
We now had the components:
The Process and Installation
In hindsight, getting the reefer was probably the hardest part of the equation. Cold Reefers, without the cooling unit attached are very scarce, and we almost fell for scammers from online classified sites. The most tempting offer was a brand-new container for an equally beautiful price. Of course, if anything is too good to be true, it probably is. The container was supposedly for sale but stuck in the Army Head Quarters in Ikeja. The “seller” promised us everything was above board, till we went to check out the container, and for some reason he refused to join us in the premises. Red Flag.
After weeks of searching, we finally found our “diamond in the rough.” It was purchased off a roadside mechanic in the Ikorodu area of Lagos. It was detached off a scrapped refrigerated truck that was heading for the famous Lagos scrap metal market at Owode, Mile 12. It had the most basic requirement for a standard reefer and an insulation thickness of 10cm, Insulation R-Value = 20. In lay man’s terms, the R-Value is how well a storage unit can resist heat. The higher the R-Value, the greater the insulation.
As you can imagine, the reefer was not in the best condition, having been abandoned for quite a while. It was battered and bruised with dents, openings, dirt and lubricant stains. Luckily, it didn’t require much effort to restore. We used liquid foam and silicon to cover up the opening and dents and gave it a thorough cleaning.
Taking delivery of the reefer was another dramatic episode involving a 48hr delay because the delivery truck broke down right OUTSIDE our office, and attracted our ever present “community boys,” but we’ll save that for another day.
The Air Conditioner
We decided on a 2.5Hp air conditioner, per directions from the CoolBot webiste based on the dimensions of the container. We were able to achieve the desired cooling effect with Coolbot Pro (we’ll get to this in a minute), while the air conditioner fan was set to “cooling” at the lowest temperature (16˚C).
There is so much that we learnt from the installation of our cold storage, especially the superpower of the Coolbot Pro. So apt that it’s called that. Basically, it makes the air conditioner operate at a much lower temperature than normal. The system was installed by our production team, using videos from the company’s website and the instruction manual!
Comparison between a Coolbot cool storage system and Tradition Compressor System:
· It is quick and cheap to install
· Consumes less energy, therefore, reduces the cost of energy.
· Can be easily connected to an alternative off-grid system, like a solar panel…or a small generator
· The system can be monitored off-site.
The CoolBot Pro is Wi-Fi enabled and records the temperature of the room 24/7 and automatically flags any discrepancies.
By damage, we mean expenses incurred:
We’re very happy with this system so far! We been able to achieve temperatures as low as 4 degrees, and we are finding that the temperature remains cold enough [for our purpose] even when there is no alternate power supply outside working hours. This is a key advantage. We haven’t used it long enough to know the impact on the AC, but we’ll be monitoring that closely.
We’d like to thank the following people whose hours of research, visits and meetings brought this dream to life:
Gloria: Production Manger
Tobi: Quality Assurance Office (The Real MVP)
Jerry and Tinuke: Admin Team
#TeamReelFruit is the best!