The Aboitiz Group has launched a cold storage facility and a digital solutions platform for farmers in a bid to reduce post-harvest losses and maximize crop yield.
Fresh Depot offers a farm-level cold storage unit in Mankayan, Benguet. In its second phase, it will offer advisory services, explore market linkage opportunities and financial inclusion programs, as well as build a database of farmers' land, market information, and planting, pre-harvest and harvest practices.
The pilot phase will run for three to six months and serve as a case study for this new type of enterprise, which Aboitiz hopes to scale up across the country if proven viable.
“Fresh Depot aims to transform the lives of our farmers by offering a platform that optimizes their yield and income while reducing waste, making a significant contribution to our country’s food security,” said Aboitiz Group president and chief executive officer (CEO) Sabin Aboitiz said in a statement.
“Uplifting the agricultural sector and our farmers is crucial to strengthening our food supply chain and reducing our reliance on imports. We see various opportunities to make an impact in this sector and this is just one of the many projects we’re working on,” he added.
Fresh Depot is working with the Manpat-A Farmers Association in Mankayan for its first pilot site of the cold storage unit. The Benguet region is home to quality highland crops and thousands of farmers.
Fresh Depot is also collaborating with international agri-tech companies Ecozen Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Cropin Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd. to allow participant farmers to experience how technology has improved agriculture in other developing countries and help future-proof the industry to make it more resilient to emerging threats and challenges.
Ecozen, which is backed by Nuveen global impact fund USA and EXIM Bank of Government of India, manufactured the modular hybrid cold storage unit called Ecofrost.
Ecofrost is designed with climate-smart deep tech to harness solar energy with a proprietary technology for battery-less back-up, which after pre-cooling will keep the fresh produce market-ready 24/7.
Cropin, which is backed by Impact Assets Singapore, is known for creating the world’s first industry cloud for agriculture, Cropin Cloud, which helps the agricultural ecosystem make informed decisions that increase farming efficiency, improve productivity, manage risk and environmental changes, and enhance sustainability.
Meanwhile, Fresh Depot has been selected by the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE) in Switzerland as a participant to a three-month international incubator program that will digitize inventory management and monitor the shelf life of stored crops in real time through an app.
Fresh Depot was selected along with four other global companies that are making decentralized solar-powered cooling accessible to farmers on a pay-per-use basis instead of traditional methods.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) underscored in 2020 the need to establish more cold storage facilities specifically for farmers. Most cold storage facilities in the Philippines are located near urban areas and used for storing meat and other frozen products.
According to a study by the Institute of Food Science and Technology of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, about 42% of locally grown produce goes bad before it can be eaten. (MVI/Ventures Cebu)