Reducing food waste and promoting sustainable agriculture in Africa with sustainable off-grid cooling

The University of Twente will coordinate a Horizon Europe project focused on improving the quality of life for African communities and industries. In the four-year AGRI-COOL project, the thirteen consortium partners will develop a containerised solution to store and cool food. The project of five million euros will officially start in June this year.

Large parts of sub-Saharan Africa have no, or only limited, access to the electricity grid. As such, many farmers cannot adequately cool their harvest, resulting in enormous amounts of food waste. This is responsible for more than 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Sustainable cooling container

The project partners aim to develop a containerised solution to store and cool food. It will combine solar power technology, Phase Change Materials to store heat, chillers, and smart control strategies to offer an affordable, scalable and climate-friendly solution. Once built, the AGRI-COOL system will be demonstrated in rural communities in South Africa, Cape Verde, Somalia and Zimbabwe, showcasing its adaptability to different climatic conditions.

Besides coordinating the whole project, the University of Twente together with University of Padova will develop an innovative smart hybrid heat storage system and lead the development of a system model and a digital twin. The model will predict the energy system’s interactions, components and dynamics. The digital twin - a virtual replica of the physical system - will analyse data from the five demonstration sites and mirror their behaviour and performance. Stakeholders can then use the digital twin to gain insights for informed decision-making.

Reducing food waste

The AGRI-COOL system must reduce food loss and waste and reduce the use of fossil fuel-powered generators. It will enhance food security, reduce waste and foster economic growth while contributing to the African countriestargets of the Paris Agreement.

Involved researchers of the University of Twente are Mina Shahi and Dr Amir Mahmoudi. Shahi is a professor in the Thermal Conversion Storage research chair (Faculty of ET). Her work focuses on domestic heating and cooling and industrial waste heat recovery. Mahmoudi is an assistant professor at the Thermal Engineering research group (Faculty of ET). His work focuses on solar thermal energy, transport phenomena and multi-scale modelings.

AGRI-COOL is financed by the European Commission’s funding programme Horizon Europe ( Grant Agreement ID: 101147102 ), the UT will coordinate this new research project focused on improving the quality of life for African communities and industries.

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