Jeremy Fryer-Biggs and Serena Hollmeyer
A robust, efficient, and low-cost refrigeration solution powered by only water and sunlight
Food spoilage has a massive human and environmental impact. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates spoilage rates as high as 45% for fruits and vegetables with a total loss of $4 billion dollars in Africa annually. This contributes more than 300 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. Food spoilage is due in large part to the lack of reliable and affordable refrigeration. Low and middle income countries do not have developed and stable electrical grids and therefore lack formal and reliable cold chains (the network of refrigerated spaces from the farm to your home which keep food fresh). Farmers are impacted by spoilage by selling their crops the instant they are harvested, regardless of price, to minimize losses. Household food choices are impacted as they choose more shelf-stable, less-nutritious foods or spend valuable time and money traveling to market multiple times per week to avoid losing even more money on spoiled food. In all, 949 million people in 49 countries in Africa and Asia are affected. What is needed is a new, low-cost, and electricity-independent way to preserve food in these areas.
Evaptainers has created the lowest-cost refrigerator in the world – the EV8. The EV8 is a stackable, collapsible, robust, and inexpensive food preservation device which, instead of running on electricity, is powered by evaporation. The concept leverages modern materials science and is inspired by a proven ancient Egyptian design. Amazingly, the EV8 can cool its contents by up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit using only water and sunlight. This system is appropriate for 654 million people living in Africa and South Asia without electricity in climates with lower than 60% average relative humidity.
Stage of Innovation: Start Up
The EV8 can be a powerful tool to help farmers earn more from their crops, families spend less on food and reduce the overall environmental impact of food spoilage. For farmers, using Evaptainers can allow them to sell a greater percentage of their crop, have additional flexibility for when they bring it to market, and ultimately obtain a better price. For consumers, having an EV8 reduces the number of weekly trips they need to make to market by allowing them to buy more food at longer intervals. This has been shown to save families more than 5% of their monthly income which can be put toward a small business, education, or home improvements. The reduction in travel can impact women and girls by giving them more time outside of their household duties for education and income-generating activities. In addition, less frequent travel has additional health benefits for women including reduced risk of vehicle accidents and lower daily caloric needs. Studies have also shown that income improvements can have positive outcomes for the education of children, especially girls.
Likewise the EV8 can help promote healthier food choices by alleviating concerns about wasting hard-earned income on fresh foods. Rather than relying on more processed forms of vegetables and fruits, consumers can purchase fresh alternatives, knowing that they will last longer in their Evaptainer. Lastly, less spoiled food translates into less harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and less compression refrigeration means less fossil fuels burned to power those refrigerators – both of which can dramatically benefit the environment.