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The University of Twente will lead a new Horizon Europe project called AGRI-COOL, which aims to enhance the quality of life for African communities. By creating a containerized food storage and cooling solution, the project targets sub-Saharan Africa, where limited electricity access leads to significant food waste. The AGRI-COOL system will combine different technologies to offer a scalable, climate-friendly alternative. The project will be demonstrated across various African countries, aiming to reduce food loss, decrease fossil fuel use, and contribute to Paris Agreement targets.

Why this is important

The lack of electricity in many parts of Africa prevents local populations from preserving food as easily as we do. University of Twente researchers will develop a solution that can help even remote communities save food, improving their quality of life.

The AGRI-COOL project is a collaborative venture involving thirteen consortium partners from both Africa and Europe. This initiative is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program, with a substantial budget of €5 million. The project officially starts in June 2024 and will run for four years, focusing on developing an innovative, containerized cooling system.

Addressing critical challenges

Large parts of sub-Saharan Africa suffer from limited access to the electricity grid, making it difficult for farmers to keep their produce fresh. This lack of cooling infrastructure leads to substantial food waste, which in turn contributes to over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The AGRI-COOL project seeks to tackle these challenges head-on by providing a sustainable and efficient cooling solution. By leveraging solar technology and advanced thermal storage, the project aims to offer a viable alternative to fossil fuel-powered generators.

The AGRI-COOL system will integrate several cutting-edge technologies to ensure effective food preservation. This includes the use of photovoltaic technology to harness solar energy, Phase Change Materials for efficient heat storage, and chillers to maintain low temperatures. Furthermore, smart control strategies will be employed to optimize the system’s performance, making it both scalable and climate-friendly. The containerized solution is designed to be adaptable to various climatic conditions, ensuring its effectiveness across different regions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Demonstration and implementation

To showcase its adaptability, the AGRI-COOL system will be demonstrated in rural communities across South Africa, Cape Verde, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. These demonstration sites will help validate the system’s performance under different environmental conditions. Additionally, the University of Twente and the University of Padova will develop a smart hybrid heat storage system and a digital twin. This digital twin will serve as a virtual replica of the physical system, allowing stakeholders to monitor and analyze data for informed decision-making.

The AGRI-COOL project is expected to bring significant economic and environmental benefits to the regions it serves. By reducing food waste, the project will help enhance food security and foster economic growth. Additionally, by minimizing the reliance on fossil fuel-powered generators, the project will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This aligns with the African countries’ targets under the Paris Agreement, promoting a more sustainable future for the continent.

Training and empowerment

To ensure the long-term success of the AGRI-COOL system, the project includes comprehensive training programs for farmers, technicians, and engineers. These programs will be tailored to local conditions, enabling the community to install, operate, and maintain the system effectively. Moreover, an advanced course will be organized for third-party engineers from various African countries, covering the design, customization, and broader economic and social aspects of the system.