SokoFresh: 2023 Scale Up Project of the Year

Portable, solar-powered cold rooms to reduce post-harvest losses and unlock higher incomes for smallholder farmers in fresh produce value chains in Kenya


An international jury, consisting of Ada Marmion from AECF, Daphne Pit from GET.Invest, Jacob Lorentzen from NDF, and Nyamolo Abagi from CLASP, selected SokoFresh as the winner of 2023 Project of the Year in the Scale Up category.

SokoFresh is a social enterprise that offers cold storage solutions and a market linkage to small and medium-scale farmers in Kenya. Their aim is to reduce post-harvest losses and provide market access to smallholder farmers in the fruit, vegetables, fish, and cereal value chains. The uniqueness of their business offering lies in the portability of the cold rooms that enables them to relocate to different geographical regions based on the produce seasonality.

The company had developed a business concept for one fresh produce value chain, but since different crops have different temperature requirements and are harvested in different seasons, they needed to test the business concept across multiple value chains in Kenya. In 2020, SokoFresh received EEP Africa funding and started testing the cooling service in the avocado, mango, banana, French beans, and herb value chains. The company onboarded over 8,000 farmers to participate in the pilot project and the results were remarkable. The farmers income increased by 20% on average and they saw a significant decrease in food waste.

One of the key things that happened during the pilot was that SokoFresh was able to develop an additional business model for the fresh produce aggregators who were looking for cooling services to be integrated in their infrastructure. Aggregators could provide cold rooms to their outgrower farmers or cooperatives anywhere in the country without the need to build brick and mortar cold rooms. The cold rooms would be used to aggregate fresh produce and maintain its quality, while making logistics for the aggregator efficient. To date SokoFresh has implemented this model in the following counties in Kenya; Kajiado, Nyeri, Laikipia, Nakuru, Tana River, Garissa, Meru and Kiambu.

SokoFresh was able to scale their business to six new hubs across the country. In 2023, the solar powered hubs generated 54,900 kWh, 4,000 MT of produce was handled at the hubs and 104,810 kg of CO2 emissions were abated. The company was also able to raise equity and debt investments from two early-stage investors.

Going forward, the company is looking for investors/partners to scale up. SokoFresh is seeking debt and equity investment of at least $3M to finance CAPEX and working capital to scale up operations in Kenya. SokoFresh is also seeking strategic partnerships with companies that are keen to support smallholder farmers and streamline horticultural value chains in Kenya. The company has so far had successful collaborations with organizations such as One Acre Fund and TechnoServe, among others.

When announcing the winner for the Scale Up category, Nyamolo Abagi highlighted

“We talk a lot about the trajectory of the early innovators that we support, what is their impact and what is the sustainability of it. SokoFresh really exists to address the post-harvest losses and poor market access for millions of smallholder farmers. It’s exciting to see how the company has been able to use the EEP Africa grant to launch six more hubs across Kenya and they were also able to close their first equity investment by Safaricom. It boils down to not only the technology and the service, but the team behind it. SokoFresh truly has a great team.”

Every year, EEP Africa recognises a company that has demonstrated significant and verifiable achievements during the past year in terms of innovation, delivery, and impact and/or fundraising. Project of the Year Scale Up seeks to recognize a company that is growing and on their way to broader impact.

EEP Africa thanks all the 2023 Project of the Year nominees, finalists, and jury members. Watch the recording of the award announcement.