Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu founder of ColdHubs: wins in Dubai

ColdHubs, a Nigerian company based in Owerri, that produces solar-powered fridge for rural farmers is among four companies that won a $1 million prize set up by the Ruler of Dubai.

The award was announced in Dubai on Monday, according to UAE newspaper The National.

ColdHubs won in the food security category, with the masterminds expressing joy for making it:

On Facebook, ColdHubs wrote: “We are proud to announce that we are the WINNER of this year’s #GlobalMakerChallenge Innovation for Peace and Justice. Winning for Food Security is a thing of joy for us.

A walk-in ColdHub fridge

A ColdHubs refrigerator in a market

“We appreciate the MBR Initiative for Global Prosperity team and everyone who has been there with us”, it said.

The Global Maker Challenge invited businesses around the world to pitch ideas which could benefit the world’s poorest people.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity, which runs the challenge, said the finalists were selected from more than 3,400 entries.

ColdHubs fridges help preserve perishable foods produced by rural farmers in developing countries.

They are particularly effective in areas where farmers’ markets are common. But many of these lack cold storage, meaning food can be wasted.

“Food is precious,” said Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, the chief executive of ColdHubs. “The cold room can be installed in open markets and I and my team strongly believe with so much advancement in science and technology there is no need for food to spoil.”

The Nigerian prize-winner used to be an agricultural radio host and the child of farmers.

He won the 2020 Waislitz Global Citizen Disruptor Award.

He said he would use the $50,000 cash prize, “to build two ColdHubs in two fruit and vegetable markets, saving 3,285 tons of food from spoilage yearly, increase the income of 200 users, and create four new jobs for women.”.

The other three winners in Dubai include the Simbi Foundation, a developer of solar-powered learning centres that gives access to digital education;

Plastics for Change, an ethical sourcing platform; and Poket, a crowd-sourced registry of offline merchants that can map rural supply chains.

The prize was split into different challenges – solving challenges refugees face when accessing services and how to ensure growing populations can access healthy and sustainable food were only two.

The 20 finalists used machine learning, artificial intelligence, smart materials or cloud networks to devise solutions to these problems.

The companies, along with eight runners-up, will now receive financial prizes, mentorship and access to global organisations worth up to $1 million.

Judges included members of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “Solve initiative” – a programme that seeks solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world’s most pressing problems – alongside 47 other experts.