Aquaculture is essential to livelihoods and food security across Africa and will become increasingly important as the continent’s population grows and climate change threatens marine fisheries and other sources of animal protein.
Aquaculture already provides livelihoods to approximately 12.3 million people and contributes about 1.3% to Africa’s total GDP, but there is enormous room for growth since African fish consumption is only half of the global and Asian per capita averages. Growth projections suggest that aquaculture could provide up to 60 million jobs by 2050 if the sector receives proper support. Unfortunately, however,the lack of a cold chain means that over a quarter of fish is lost post-harvest in sub-Saharan Africa, meaning lost income for vulnerable fish farmers, and lower available nutrition for millions of Africans.
Keep It Cool is addressing food supply chain challenges for small-scale fish and poultry farmers in East Africa through proximate solar-powered cold chain solutions. With this solution integrated across the entire value chain, this initiative aims to achieve a 98% reduction in waste, while also enhancing market access and resilience for farmers experiencing food insecurity. Utilizing the Markiti e-commerce platform, Keep It Cool facilitates direct sales of white meat products to fishmongers and small businesses. The commitment to transparent pricing, fair compensation, and guaranteed off-take benefits both producers and consumers, ensuring a reliable supply of fresh, affordable white meats with doorstep delivery in and around Nairobi.
Here’s why we are excited to partner with Keep It Cool:
Rural food producers are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and need to adapt their production methodologies as well as their access to markets. Increasing temperatures and water stress threaten their ability to harvest and to get their product to market unspoiled. In particular, the lack of cold chain access severely impacts small-scale fish farmers and fishers in East Africa, squandering precious food and nutrients while directly cutting into the incomes of vulnerable producers.
Keep It Cool provides solar-powered cold chain solutions through their hybrid trucks, portable cooler boxes, ice flakes, and cold rooms, so that local producers can safely store and transport perishable goods to market. In Kenya’s Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana region, Keep It Cool currently works with over 3,800 small-scale fish farmers and traders. Their solutions have been game changers; many fish farmers have doubled their previous earnings by using Keep It Cool to aggregate their catch and safely transport it to retailers.
Keep It Cool also unlocks access to higher-value markets by connecting fishers and fish farmers directly to retailers, and providing those retailers with financing to purchase fish. Their integrated farmer-sourcing platform allows merchants to place orders directly from local communities, offers them inventory financing to ensure study demand, and then ensures timely and safe fulfillment. Their e-commerce channel connects national buyers to verified produce from across Kenya.
Greater availability of fish is positive for overall nutrition and is considered critical to the continent’s food security. Fish is a good source of almost all bioavailable minerals and its nutritional value surpasses land-based sources of animal protein. Greater access and lower prices were found to result in increased fish consumption over various studies, suggesting that Keep It Cool’s work should contribute to greater access and affordability of fish protein.
Many solar innovations cater to grid stability and net metering. But Keep It Cool flips the script by bundling solar specifically to enable cold chain access for remote, off-grid producers. These bundled solutions provide end-to-end support across the supply chain. Keep It Cool’s cold boxes allow safe storage just after harvest. Then integrated refrigerated transport picks up goods from farms for centralized processing. Finally, their online platform, Markiti, connects national buyers to verified produce. Their systems occupy a minimal footprint, work reliably, and pack enough power for refrigeration and freezing.
This decentralized approach unlocks entirely new use cases like solar-powered cold rooms at fish aggregation centers and portable solar freezers that traders can transport to farms for on-site produce collection. Keep It Cool is also exploring other value chains where this model can be applied to support underserved producers and traders.
This seamless, customized bundle cements Keep It Cool as an innovator in the solar cold chain space tailored for Africa’s smallholders. As the startup adds value chains to aquaculture, the replicability of its model will drive scale.
Today, Keep It Cool operates primarily in Kenya with sights set on regional expansion. But even in their current Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana markets, they’ve only scratched the surface of a huge Cold Chain as a Service (CaaS) opportunity.
The aquaculture industry in Kenya provides livelihoods for around 1.5 million people, both directly and indirectly. This includes those working as fishermen, fish traders, processors, suppliers of fishing equipment, and more. In 2022, Kenya's overall fish production from wild catch fisheries and fish farming aquaculture totaled 174,000 metric tons. The monetary value of this fish output was 37.5 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately $237 million). This demonstrates that fisheries and aquaculture are major industries in Kenya, generating substantial economic value through fish harvesting and production activities across the country. Reaching even a fraction of these users in the next three years would require a massive manufacturing, partnerships, and infrastructure scale-up.
Our venture-building support is focused on strategically driving this growth. We will leverage analytics to optimize operations, enhance branding to accelerate sales, and provide fundraising support to close their seed round. These initiatives can help drive regional growth. There is also substantial potential to expand their services across climate-smart value chains.
By enhancing Keep It Cool's strategic capabilities, we hope to aid their mission of profitably spreading solar cold chain solutions that boost incomes, reduce waste, and build climate resilience for smallholder producers across East Africa. Ultimately, we see Keep It Cool as poised for breakout regional growth based on early traction and a huge addressable market.