This is the third in a series of examples of companies successfully overcoming challenges to find profitability in smallholder markets. This week, we are looking at Store It Cold, which is commercializing its innovative cold storage solution in Central America.
Store It Cold is on a mission to bring affordable cold storage to smallholder markets around the world. Store It Cold’s product, the CoolBot, lowers and regulates the temperature controls of a standard window air conditioning unit, transforming an insulated room into an affordable cold storage unit that costs one-tenth that of a traditional cold room. This results in extended shelf life, higher quality produce, and reduced rejection rates.
For many Central American cooperatives, aggregators, and exporters sourcing from smallholder farmers, traditional refrigeration is an unattainable expense. This lack of affordable cold storage leads to higher spoilage and rejection rates, hurting the incomes of both aggregators and farmers. To address this challenge, Store It Cold partnered with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a USAID-funded program, to commercialize the CoolBot in Honduras and Guatemala.
Since starting with Partnering for Innovation in 2016, Store It Cold has already achieved several notable successes through engaging directly with aggregators, farmers, and other stakeholders. To date, Store It Cold has sold 40 CoolBots in Honduras, including to two seed banks that supply more than 40,000 smallholder farmers, with an additional 2,569 farmers benefitting from companies that source from smallholders.
Flexibility for Getting to Success
Key to Store It Cold’s success is being able to pivot from its initial “do it yourself” to delivering a CoolBot kit with all the necessary materials to set up and use the technology. Initially, Store It Cold sold the CoolBot on its own with instructions for how to set it up, which included purchasing additional materials. But the company has since been testing offering a complete package, such as a mobile unit to give companies more flexibility in where they place their cold room. It is also testing a refrigerated truck unit to move the cold chain even closer to the farmer.
How did Store It Cold arrive at the decision to update how it sold its game-changing technology in order to sell in a new market? Through embracing flexibility and fostering innovation.
Flexibility and adaptiveness to customers’ demands. Store It Cold is highly receptive to customer feedback, and demonstrated great flexibility in adapting its product and business strategy to better meet demand. In response to feedback that Honduran customers did not want a do-it-yourself solution, Store It Cold created a bundled product that includes the CoolBot, an air conditioning unit, and an insulated room. After realizing that it was not feasible to sell the CoolBot directly to smallholders, Store It Cold pivoted to larger companies that source from smallholders, and identified missing links in the cold chain, such as refrigerated trucking. Store It Cold’s flexibility has allowed it to overcome the constraints and challenges of entering a new market.
Initiative and innovative mindset. Store It Cold continually fosters innovation and initiative among its staff, which has been key to the creation of several new products. This support of and investment in the ability of employees to innovate enables Store It Cold to adapt and pivot products and strategies easily. Store It Cold developed a mobile unit for demonstrations and added flexibility and a refrigerated truck unit for transportation. While the refrigerated truck is still in beta testing, it has already completed several trips without incident.
By embracing flexibility and innovation, Store It Cold is successfully commercializing the CoolBot in Central America, facilitating the entry of smallholder farmers into cold chains, and becoming an industry standard.