2023 in Review: InspiraFarms Cooling Achievements, Industry Trends, and Plans for 2024

As we wind down 2023, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers and staff of InspiraFarms Cooling, as well as our diverse set of partners for a year that has been equally challenging and prosperous. Reflecting, I am struck, yet again, by how much impact we can cumulatively have when we do our jobs right, and the impact energy efficient cold chain can have on our customers businesses.  Seeing our customers, new and old, succeed in spite of a tough market has been rewarding for the whole team. 

I am particularly proud of work the whole team has done to build some fantastic facilities across Southern and Eastern Africa – thank you. As we wrap up 2023 and express gratitude for the successes at InspiraFarms Cooling, it’s essential to acknowledge the broader landscape of the fresh produce industry. 

Fresh produce industry trends 

In 2023, the fresh produce industry witnessed a series of pivotal moments that would set the course for the future of Africa’s export sector. From innovative freight solutions to lifting existing bans, the industry experienced significant events that will have a lasting impact on its growth and performance in the years to come.  Here are some positive highlights relating to this: 

  • This year, there have been exciting developments in our industry, and these include Tanzania reclaiming eligibility to export bitter gourd to the EU, Zimbabwe securing approval for fresh citrus fruit exports to China, and Kenya leading the EAC by signing a new free trade agreement with the EU. Additionally, direct flights from Kenya to Israel have been launched to boost exports, and the longstanding ban on exporting unprocessed macadamia nuts from Kenya has been lifted since 2009. These milestones underscore promising opportunities for our business. These are great results that will increase the need for high-quality pre-cooling and an efficient and continuous cold chain from harvest to consumers is fundamental. We recapped more news in two of our articles here and here. 
  • The industry’s success is not without uncertainties and challenges, and these include South Africa’s citrus export and cold chain sector facing setbacks due to load shedding and the port crisis. Additionally, Kenyan chilli and avocado exports faced a temporary hold in July due to EU phytosanitary standards, amidst several other temporary bans on exporting fresh produce across Africa. 

All this happened on the backdrop of a challenging macro-economic environment; marred by depreciating currencies, airfreight costs, elections and continued high price of fuel and energy. However, we see some brilliant businesses doing amazing work in spite of these challenges, it is always a pleasure to be able to work with and visit them.  

cold room installed by inspirafarms cooling in tanzania

About InspiraFarms Cooling’s Customers 

  • In 2023, we had the privilege of working with a great range of growers across the continent. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our returning customers, with whom growing has been a true privilege. Noteworthy installations, currently in operation, include Kenya’s second phase of Kakuzi PLC, two projects for exporters, FloraPura, Evergreen Herbs, herb exporter Running Springs and digital marketplace, Tawi Fresh. We’ve also made strides in Tanzania with Tamu Tamu, in Zimbabwe with Millar Brothers and FreshPort, and in Uganda with a slaughterhouse for TransNational Agri, among others. 
  • Furthermore, we are currently in the process of implementing installations for various businesses in our pipeline, including prominent names such as Kenya’s Lenana Flowers, Redland Roses, Blooming Africa, and Ngong Veg LTD. Simultaneously, throughout the year, we have consistently delivered maintenance services and repairs for all our cooling solutions. This approach has minimised downtime, mitigated breakdowns, and prevented potential damages on our clients’ cooling machines and equipment across East Africa. 
  • Additionally, we documented in video, the installation process of the FreshPort cooling facility, – a state-of-the-art, 1000 m2 facility for a Zimbabwean company specialising in the cooling, handling, and export of high-quality fresh mixed produce destined for European, Middle Eastern, and Asian markets. This facility boasts two cold rooms, two pre-cooling rooms, loading bays, and IoT systems that enable remote access to critical information from the clients’ cold rooms. At the start of 2024, we will share the video across all our platforms, 

Company updates 

Celtic International acquisition 

We recently shared that InspiraFarms Cooling is pursuing an opportunity to acquire Celtic International’s subsidiaries in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya. For the past 25 years that it has been in the market, the Celtic Cooling team has built a great brand and delivered efficient cooling solutions across Africa. With the intent for both companies to continue their shared vision of delivering high-quality cooling solutions at competitive prices, the acquisition process was started in November 2023. 

This opportunity will help expand our presence across the African market. Integrating the Celtic entities into the existing infrastructure of InspiraFarms Cooling offers many advantages – particularly building on the excellent experience, skills, and technical proficiency of the teams that have been operating for nearly 25 years. This will also allow more cooling systems to be deployed faster and help us focus more on maximising our customers’ returns and reducing their post-harvest loss. 

InfraCo Investment round 

In November, InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), announced the signing of an agreement with Enterprise Project Ventures (EPV), committing €5 million to scale the company’s InspiraFarms Cooling solutions across Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana. The investment will enable us to pilot our ‘Cooling-as-a-Service’ model which seeks to ensure that services are affordable for customers and will generate the data necessary to unlock future investment. Next year, we will pilot this model, so keep an eye.

Exhibitions and Events 

We had a successful exhibition at Fruit Logistica in Berlin this year, showcasing our cooling solutions. Additionally, we actively participated in or exhibited at key events such as Avocado Africa in Nairobi, IFTEX Nairobi, Naivasha Horticultural Fair, International Floriculture Trade Fair, Trade Fair Aalsmeer at Royal Flora Holland, ADMA AgriShow, and other industry-leading events regionally.

Featured in the media and news. 

As a company, we recognise the importance of being featured on industry websites, as it not only legitimizes our work but also extends our reach to a broader audience. This year, our work has been prominently showcased on various platforms, including but not limited to Briter Bridges, FreshPlaza, FloraDaily, CLASP, FruitPortal, IICT Media, Big Tech This Week, Barrons, and several others. 

Office closure and the way forward in 2024 

We are presently in the process of preparing for an exceptional 2024. A big priority will be piloting our new lease to own model for cold storage and focusing on the smoothest way to integrate operations of both Celtic International and InspiraFarms Cooling. In between this, we will continue our efforts to install solutions that deliver optimal outcomes for our customers while minimising energy consumption to enhance efficiency and reduce environmental impact. Additionally, we will be piloting our new lease to own model for cold storage and focusing on the smoothest way to integrate operations of both Celtic International and InspiraFarms Cooling. 

As the festive season approaches, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for your continued support throughout the year, and we look forward to an exciting year ahead. In celebration of Christmas, our offices will be closed from December 27th to December 29th. During this time, our team will be taking a well-deserved break to recharge and spend time with loved ones. 

I would like to extend warm wishes for a joyful, healthy, and Merry Christmas to our customers, staff, partners, and friends, as well as a prosperous and fulfilling year ahead in 2024. 

With warmest wishes, 

Julian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell (CEO)