French technology company Koolboks will use a $500,000 (€490,872) investment from Shell-funded impact investment company All On to scale up the deployment of its pay-as-you-go isobutane (R600a) solar-powered fridges/freezers in Nigeria.

“Koolboks is particularly thrilled to close this deal that will ensure the scaling up of our business operations,” said Ayoola Dominic, Koolboks CEO in a recent press release announcing the investment by All On. “We believe that depending on sustainable energy can help people earn a living and feed their family. It is a win for small businesses, a win for us, and a win for the planet at large.”

Koolboks has a growing footprint in Africa, particularly Nigeria. Its pay-as-you-go solar fridges provide cold storage for perishables and beverages to productive-use customers such as fish sellers and neighborhood stores in areas where grid access is limited, and cooling costs are high. Their off-grid solution is offered through a lease-to-own business model with the aim of offering eco-friendly and accessible refrigeration to everyone who needs it.

“Koolboks is a fast-growing company, and their products are currently sold in Nigeria and 10 other African markets. This deal supports the company’s Nigeria expansion in the distribution of solar-powered cold storage units,” said, Dr. Wiebe Boer, CEO of All On. “It aligns with All On’s strategic goal to support the deployment of off-grid energy alternatives for productive use.”

Access to affordable, energy-efficient off-grid products like solar fridges is critical in assisting low-income consumers, particularly women, in climbing the energy ladder and promoting economic activity, according to All On. This new investment enables All On to tap into the significant market potential available in the decentralized segment of the solar-powered cold storage market.

According to Koolboks, ice compartments in the refrigerator cabinets produce ice during the day when the sun is available; at night, the system switches internally to the ice, which maintains the temperature of the cabinet till the next day. Koolboks complements the “ice batteries” with integrated lithium-ion batteries. The units can function as a refrigerator or as a freezer.

“Thanks to this technology we’ve been able to bring down the cost of owning an off-grid solar refrigerator by close to 40%,” said Koolboks on its website.

Koolboks and CaaS

In 2020, Koolboks was one of the five companies selected by the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE) for its Cooling as a Service (CaaS) incubator initiative. The aim of the initiative was to support technology providers from around the world in implementing CaaS projects.

Together, BASE and Koolboks developed a CaaS contract that enables traders to access cooling technology without a large upfront payment. This project set out to tackle food waste and vaccine spoilage in Nigeria particularly.

Thanks to the Caas initiative, Koolboks completed a commercial pilot study in 2020 to assess consumer reaction to its flagship product, the KoolHome solar freezer. The investment from All On will now provide financing to help speed up the deployment of KoolHome units in key areas in the Niger Delta, Southwest, including the Federal Capital Territory and its environs, according to Koolboks.

Koolboks started its pilot project in Ijora fish market, providing solar-powered refrigerators and freezers to ensure fresh produce for traders in the markets of Lagos, eliminating the challenges of erratic power supply in cold-food storage.

Koolboks is not the only CaaS incubator company expanding the natural refrigerant footprint in Nigeria. ColdHubs, a Nigerian provider of propane (R290)-based solar-powered cold-storage space for perishable food, has been expanding rapidly in the region and plans to have 100 new facilities by the end of 2022.

“We believe that depending on sustainable energy can help people earn a living and feed their family.”

Ayoola Dominic, Koolboks

Watch this short case study video about the work Koolboks and CaaS did in the KoolBoks in Ijora Frozen Foods Market in Nigeria.

Want to find out more, or have something to say about this story? Join the ATMO Connect network to meet and engage with like-minded stakeholders in the clean cooling and natural refrigerant arena.