IoT Research UX

Connecting African Cold Chains to the Cloud

Design of a cloud-based remote monitoring platform for cold chains of exporting agribusinesses in Africa

InspiraFarms builds modular cold-storage and food processing facilities for agribusinesses in emerging markets, mainly Eastern and Southern Africa. The structures comply with international food safety certifications required to export to value-adding markets such as Europe.

Besides space for processing, grading and packing, the facilities include cooling units which drop the temperature of incoming produce to crop-specific storage temperatures of mostly around 5– 10°C.

Correct temperature management reduces the risk of post-harvest food loss since pre-cooling at farm level is the first major requirement for sufficient shelf-life and high quality on arrival.

User testing of an early prototype with Kenyan cold room operators

To help farmers manage their cold room operations, InspiraFarms developed an in-house cloud solution that collects real-time sensor data of its facilities. The collected datasets include readings such as ambient and pulp temperature, relative humidity, energy consumption, as well as external weather conditions.

Using an online platform, farmers and workers can monitor their operation in real-time from the comfort of their offices or phones. This allows immediate intervention (e.g. exceeded thresholds of quality indicators such as ambient humidity) and simplifies mandatory record-keeping of temperatures and traceability protocols.

Building on that, the data can be shared and extended with other supply chain partners via the cloud’s API. For example, readings of data loggers shipped with the consignments can be compared with data collected during the initial pre-cooling, which helps to improve operations and food quality at scale.

As part of the cloud’s product development team, I did industry research, designed the app and UX, marketing, data analysis and user testing with InspiraFarms’ clients. Also, I worked with the hardware engineers and IoT developers to streamline mobile network connection in various African countries.