Acumen has invested in SokoFresh, which provides smallholder farmers in East Africa with cold-storage solutions and market access to reduce post-harvest losses and guarantee demand for produce. This is Acumen’s first new investment with its latest energy initiative, PEII+, which is designed to invest early-stage capital in energy businesses that are improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs in India, East Africa, and West Africa.
The Challenge: Post-Harvest Losses Significantly Affect Farmer Livelihoods
Africa’s smallholder farmers lose millions of kilograms worth of produce to post-harvest losses every year. This creates an urgency to sell the food quickly once matured, which exposes farmers to exploitation from brokers. About 30%-40% of horticulture produce in sub-Saharan Africa does not make it to market, hindered by informal and unreliable supply chains. Without a place to store it, produce will rot, leaving farmers with less quality produce to sell and resulting in vast quantities of food going to waste.
The Innovation: Mobile Cold-Storage Solutions
SokoFresh provides reliable and efficient solar-powered cold-storage solutions to support the East Africa horticulture sector, disrupting the value chain by structuring produce aggregation, upgrading the logistics process, and decentralizing cold-chain access. By finding buyers—both domestic and export-processing—through its market linkage platform, SokoFresh eliminates numerous middlemen and increases farmer income.
SokoFresh’s promise of better prices and consistent demand remains a winning formula for securing and retaining new farmers. Buyers are willing to procure more volume and pay a premium for top-quality supplies, reliability, and fair and transparent pricing as they save costs on aggregation and logistics.
Why We Invested: A Powerful Means to Transform Agriculture
SokoFresh is addressing key gaps in aggregation, cold-chain access, logistics, and market linkage. The company has positioned itself not just to install cold-storage technology, but to provide a complete farm-to-market service to smallholder farmers.
There are very few formal aggregators at the first mile who are able to provide equitable market access opportunities for smallholder farmers. SokoFresh is offering a powerful means to transform agriculture by using solar-powered cold storage to capture high margins from off-takers and pass these premium prices to low-income farmers.
According to 200 SokoFresh customers who were interviewed by 60 Decibels:
- 89% shared that their quality of life had improved, with 41% “very much improved” after using their services.
- 75% of customers use SokoFresh services for income generation.
- 97% said their income increases as a result.
Today, SokoFresh has impacted over 8,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya with its cold-storage units. Acumen’s investment aims to support SokoFresh in building out dozens more units, impacting the lives of thousands of farmers.
“With Acumen’s support, we can empower more farmers in Kenya and beyond to access fair and transparent markets, increase food security, and ultimately boost their incomes,” says SokoFresh CEO Denis Karema. “We’re thrilled to be working with a partner that shares our mission of using climate-smart solutions to create a sustainable and equitable food system.”
“Acumen is proud to back Sokofresh and their use of renewable energy to combat first-mile post-harvest loss, and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Shiru Mwangi, Director, Acumen East Africa. “This investment highlights our dedication to support innovations that deliver direct impact to smallholder farmers.”
Learn more about PEII+, Acumen’s latest $25 million investment initiative to power livelihoods in India, East Africa, and West Africa with clean energy.
SokoFresh is a venture ideated by Enviu. Together with partners, Enviu builds world-changing companies that address social and environmental issues and drive failing markets toward a new normal.