Kenyans have a refreshing way of refrigerating without electrical power. The FreshBox from Bosch subsidiary BSH and one and a half liters of water – that is all it takes for the fruit vendor Achieng Mbula to keep her goods fresh for longer.
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Mama Nyandori’s cool box

The FreshBox made by the Bosch subsidiary BSH Hausgeräte chills food without electricity

Kenyans have a refreshing way of refrigerating without electrical power. A box and one and a half liters of water — that is all it takes for the fruit vendor Achieng Mbula to keep her goods fresh for longer. Sales are up, waste is down, and thanks to the FreshBox, Achieng Mbula is helping to tackle a global problem.

A cool solution

Chair Lady Mama Nyandori sells her goods on the market from the Freshbox.
Chairlady Mama Nyandori: the Jubilee Market’s trailblazer.

Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, has a population of more than 320,000 people. Many of them head downtown every day to stock up on groceries at the Jubilee Market, where 100 or so stands groan under the weight of mountains of melons, tomatoes, carrots, and herbs. A woman with a contagious laugh calls the shots here. A grocer by trade, the 50-year-old Mary Achieng Mbula was elected chairlady by her fellow vendors. This position has earned her the honorific Mama Nyandori, the “lady from Ndori.” And like any good “mama,” she knows all about her charges’ concerns.

The market in Kisumu has hardly any cooling facilities.
Dry and hot climate: in Kisumu, there’s no guarantee that the fruit and vegetables will always be fresh.

It is hot in Kisumu. Soaring temperatures are bad news for market vendors who have no refrigerators to protect their perishables from the heat. Unsold goods often end up withered or rotting in the garbage. This is not just a financial blow for vendors; it is an appalling waste of food for the community. The problem has long plagued Mama Nyandori, but now the chairlady can declaim from her stall: “I have found the solution.” She points to the blue crate sitting next to her — the FreshBox, a simple yet ingenious cooler that works without electricity, ice, or ice packs.

Market-fresh from the FreshBox

Refrigeration without electricity — double walls do the trick

Mama Nyandori explains to other vendors the benefits of the FreshBox.
Mama Nyandori explains to other vendors the benefits of the FreshBox.

This blue box’s cooling system is borrowed from traditional tech that people in hot, dry regions started using centuries ago. They would pour liquid into a chamber between the double walls of earthenware food storage vessels to take advantage of evaporating water’s cooling effect. A modern take on an ancient principle, the FreshBox is made of lightweight plastic rather than clay, and features a fabric-lined partition wall. Into the cavity between the two walls go roughly one and a half liters of water, and this liquid draws heat out of the box as it evaporates. As a result, the temperature inside drops by up to ten degrees Celsius. This is enough to add as much as five days to some foods’ shelf life.

How the FreshBox helps

The FreshBox uses evaporative cooling.
The Bosch FreshBox uses evaporative cooling. Before it can evaporate, water needs a lot of heat, and draws this heat from the air around it. As the water in the cavity evaporates, the temperature inside the box falls. In optimum ambient conditions, roughly 1.4 liters a day can cool the air in the box by 10 degrees Celsius.
Food stays fresh considerably longer with the FreshBox.
As a result, food stays fresh considerably longer. Normally, the high outdoor temperatures would cause it to perish within one day. But if the air in the FreshBox is cooled from 43 to, say, 35 degrees Celsius, food will stay fresh for up to five days longer.

42 liters

...is the capacity of a FreshBox. This is equivalent to more than 125 apples.

Putting an end to food waste

The Bosch-FreshBox is like a portable fridge.
A popular portable fridge: on Jubilee Market, the FreshBox is a guarantee of good sales.

Mama Nyandori’s delight with the cooler is hardly surprising. “The days when I had to throw away piles of fruit and vegetables are finally over,” she says. There is more at stake here: studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest that in Africa alone, almost half the food produced ends up in the garbage rather than on plates. A study by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) estimates that 1.6 billion metric tons — one-third of the world’s annual food production — is, for various reasons, thrown away uneaten. This is expected to increase to as much as 2.1 billion tons by 2030. One reason for this loss is the lack of cooling technologies in the supply chain, for example, after the harvest or en route from the vendor to the consumer, as was the case at the Jubilee Market. Numerous small-scale initiatives, including the FreshBox made by the Bosch subsidiary BSH Hausgeräte, can help prevent some of this shameful waste.

Mama Nyandori is carrying the FreshBox.

I always carry the FreshBox with me. Everything I sell, I put in it. That is how important it is to me.

Mama Nyandori

Coaching for cooling

Mama Nyandori is proud of her Bosch FreshBox.
Mama Nyandori’s blue treasure chest has earned her the nickname Mama FreshBox.

The first vendor on the Jubilee Market to spot the potential of the FreshBox, Mama Nyandori now uses it to cart her goods to the market every day. Other merchants were quick to catch on, and demand has grown to the point where Mama Nyandori devotes two hours a day, Mondays through Saturdays, to coaching others on the ins and outs of the FreshBox. “All the vendors are keen to work with it,” she says, and nobody has any reason to doubt her. That persuasiveness has earned her a new honorary title at the Jubilee Market — Mama FreshBox.

Keep food and drinks cool without electricity

The FreshBox brings the temperature down by as much as 10°C to keep food cool. It works without electricity, requiring just one and a half liters of water a day. Even non-potable water will do.

In hot, dry climates, lower temperature means longer shelf life. For example, food will keep nearly a week longer if the temperature of the ambient air is reduced from 43 to 35 degrees Celsius.

The FreshBox can help reduce the staggering amount of food that goes to waste. According to one study, one-third of the food produced worldwide — 1.6 billion tons — is thrown away every year.

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