Adejoke Nofiu, the Operations Lead at Ecotutu, a cold chain company, speaks with PAUL OMOROGBE on how the company is able to curb post-harvest losses using eco-friendly solutions.
WHAT does Ecotutu do for farmers?
We deal with post harvest loss. We are a cold chain company. We take care of cold storage solutions from farm to table. We are the intermediary between the farmers, the aggregators, the retailers to the consumer. When I say intermdeiary I mean the cold storage solution. We take care of that cold chain aspect.
From farm, we use our cold trucks, take it to the aggregators. Aggregators may have small retailers. We have our cold box. If it is not a cold box version, from the cold truck, we have our cold storage facilities spread across farms. So we can take from a farm to another farm or to a warehouse, storing it in the cold storage. We have cold storage from 10 to 40 tonnes of cold storage. We have cold bikes that distribute to retailers as well as consumers. Recently, we got these are insulated bags. They work for both agricultural businesses and pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical lines use it for temperature sensitive items like covid vaccines. The agricultural companies they use it for premium vegetables and proteins mainly. So we have delivery as a service; and we have cold storage as a service. Then we have outright ownership where you own your own cold storage and we maintain it for you.
More about the class of foods your cold storage provides for?
We deal with all kinds of proteins. We have fish, chicken, turkey, seafood, everything protein that needs cold storage solution.
For premium fruits we all know what perishable foods are like. The shelf life is just in hours. But with our solution, the last for weeks.
What’s the affordability? Do people really see cold storage as a need? Some Nigerians don’t seem bothered about how fresh their food is. And there is general wastage of perishable food items in the market.
Our services are quite affordable. But at Ecotutu, we are not all about the money. So, first of all what we do is to sensitize people on why they need cold storage, why it is an advantage and helpful to their health. Like they say health is wealth. And if you eat good food, good food is good living. We start by educating people my school storage is needed. So when you ask for cold storage solutions you already know why you need it. You know the advantage it brings for you both money-wise and and health-wise.
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What are the advantages?
First of all post-harvest loss. Secondly, you’re not taking rotten fruit. For example, tomato has a shelf life of eight hours. When you pluck it starts deteriorating. But if you have a cold storage solution right where you are harvesting, the shelf life is like 21 days. So you know the food you are bringing to the market is not halfway spoilt. Some people want to buy and eat tomatoes fresh especially vegetarians.
As for affordability, let me start from the cold truck. For our cold truck, we charge per kg. We can transport as far as from the North, a basket can take about 25 kg. We charge per kg depending on location. It’s coming in a cold truck, not an ordinary truck. So you know what you have harvested is what you are giving out to the consumer. From the cold truck, it is being transported to a warehouse where you have a cold storage to keep.
The cold storage is powered by solar which is an off-grid solution. We have tricycles and motorcycles depending on the offtakers. It could be retailers or consumers that come to the hub and ask for 20kg of tomatoes or lettuce and so on. You know what you are buying is at premium quality. For the affordability it’s so slow as you storing in the cold room at 200 naira per crate. It is as low as you transporting at like N100 per kg. A crate is about 25kg. This is for a day!
Caring for the environment
All our solutions are powered by solar. They are all off-grid solutions. Our solutions are plug and play. They charge and they are ready for use.