21 Mar 2018
Rabat, Morocco
Organic Food and Agriculture, Renewable energy and energy efficiency

In the hot Moroccan desert, many families go without refrigeration. Some can hardly afford fancy electronic gadgets, others have no access to electricity. Their food quickly spoils, leaving some families hungry and others eating the food anyway, which increases their risk of getting ill. One young Moroccan entrepreneur is trying to change this cycle with a refrigerator she named “Fresh’it”, that works without electricity, keeping food safe and good to eat for up to 15 days, even in the desert.

Twenty-four-year-old Raowia Lamhar, CEO of Go Energyless Solutions, has two passions: helping people and helping the environment. The Casablanca native first learned about the lack of electricity in rural Morocco while studying chemical engineering at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of Mohammedia, 60 kilometers south of Rabat.

It was at the university that she joined the group, Enactus, an international organization supporting young people working on social projects. Lamhar and her team went out to rural parts of Morocco to interview people who lacked electricity. What they found was the hardship as people tried to keep food from spoiling in between weekly markets.

“The food they threw away [accounted for] 20% of their monthly income,” says Lamhar. “Meeting with those people inspired me to look for a solution to help in a sustainable way. So, when we returned to the university, we started thinking of a fridge that could work without electricity.”

How the Fresh’it refrigerator works without electricity:

The Fresh’it refrigerator does not look anything like your traditional electric fridge. Instead, it is made out of beautifully carved clay resembling a pot. The outer layer is thick red clay, a layer of sand, then there is an inner clay pot where fruits, vegetables, and meat are stored. The sand needs to be watered once or twice per day, depending on the weather outside, and that moist sand helps lowers the temperature inside the pot by six degrees. The pot is then placed in a well-ventilated area and covered with burlap fabric.

“We met with people who live on just $13 per month for five family members,” says Lamhar. “So when you lose all of your fruits and vegetables, it means a lot of wasted money. If people have this fridge, maybe that money can be used for sending your children to school or buying better food instead. Some people have never even tasted meat because they can’t afford to buy it.”

The Fresh’it fridge is important to the rural community not just for keeping food cool, but also for cooling vital medicines such as insulin.

The two business models for Fresh’it:

Not only does the  Fresh’it refrigerator cater to people who don’t have money or access to electricity;  environmentally-aware consumers have shown interest in these clay pots, too.

“We sell this fridge for $22 in the rural areas, and for $50 to people in urban areas,” says Lamhar. “So rich people help subsidize the poor.”

She said people in the urban communities generally buy the Fresh’it from the Go Energyless Facebook page, compared to the salesperson who goes door-to-door to reach members of the rural, poorer neighborhoods.

Now, Go Energyless is trying to reach out to organic grocery stores in urban areas as a way to increase sales of their fridge, which translates into additional funding for the organization.

Future plans for the energy-less fridge:

Some of Go Energyless Solutions’ success comes from help from the startup accelerator NUMA, which helps small businesses raise venture capital.

Rida Chahoud is Innovation Manager at NUMA and said he first came in contact with Lamhar through Enactus, and that he was impressed with her business focus and impact-driven mindset.

He started working with Lamhar in late 2015 and helped her with the initial design and testing of the energyless fridge.

“I think the Fresh’it refrigerator is a great product,” Chahoud notes. “It’s the first in a long series of products they want to develop as a company. Ninety five percent of Morocco have access to electricity, but there are so many people who can’t afford it. This type of fridge not only helps preserve food, but medications as well. I can see it being expanded into southern Asia, Latin America, and other African countries.”

It’s been two years since Go Energyless Solutions first started distributing the Fresh’it fridge, and Lamhar says so far, they are happy with the organization’s growth. It employs two pot makers in Marrakesh, three assistants, one transporter, and the three company founders, who all met through Enactus.

“So far we’ve participated in competitions to raise money for our project,” says Lamhar. “We also get funding through awards. We’ve met with two investors so far, and are still negotiating with one of them to raise more money.”

In the future, Go Energyless hopes to invent more products that work without electricity, to give hope and save resources for the people of rural Morocco.

 

 

Follow Go Energyless Solutions through their Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Go Energyless Solutions.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
A Moroccan entrepreneur is tackling food waste through this energyless fridge | The Switchers
Go Energyless Solutions Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency
Follow us: