A visit to Cold Solution Services’ new multi-temperature store in Nairobi Kenya, shows a courageous commitment to an East African cold chain vision. While now a stand-alone flagship, in time it will be at the center of a network envisioned to include the neighboring countries of Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. In Kenya, an additional facility is planned for Mombasa to complement the existing Tatu City flagship.

Cold Solution Services’ Tatu City Cold Store

The objectives behind this vision Include significantly reducing food waste. Currently, the UN has calculated that almost 50% of fresh food produced in East Africa spoils before consumption. With solar-driven containerized cold stores situated close to production areas and produce aggregators, the likes of tomatoes, potatoes, mangoes, and avocados can be cooled quickly after harvest before delivery to regional cold stores for packing and eventual sale.

Cold stores are also critical for the storage and distribution of some pharmaceutical drugs. Cold chains therefore play a role in improving health in previously isolated communities.

Likewise, the availability of frozen protein, be it tilapia, Nile Perch, Massbanker, chicken, pork, or beef, can improve general health. it was the need to transport mutton from New Zealand to Europe’s growing but protein-scarce cities in the late 1800s that caused the invention of refrigeration.

Cold store Racking

But refrigeration requires electrical energy. Co2 emissions from coal, gas, and diesel power stations, and generators are seen to be at least partially responsible for anthropomorphic global warming.  That and the expense of supplying electricity to the farming areas have dictated the need to make the cold stores both optimally efficient and environmentally friendly.

Costing the equivalent of R600 million, the Tatu City store has a current capacity of 14700 pallets in 14 rooms all of varying sizes to allow for different temperature regimes. The rooms are 12 meters high and are currently fitted with fixed selective racking 6 pallets in height with a maximum weight of 1000kgs.  Three rooms have been fitted with mobile racking rails and mobile-friendly fixed selective racking to allow their capacities to be further increased in the future by about 50%. Three rooms have been designed specifically for pharmaceuticals together with their dock levelers, and three can be used for fruit ripening.  Being situated in a special economic zone, the cold store is fully bonded.

Construction began in 2019 and was delayed by the Covid pandemic. It was finished in July 2023 and started taking in products in August of the same year.

The loading and offloading area is 15 meters wide and full store height. The facility has a total of 19 dock levelers, all fully sealed. From the airlock, there are vertical highspeed doors leading to passages with the rooms on either side. These features are designed to prevent warm moist air from entering the cold rooms and insulate the evaporators.   Cold and freezer store defrosts are normally required daily to heat the evaporator coils to remove the ice. In this store defrosts should be minimized, perhaps one per week representing a significant energy saving.

The store has a million-liter underground water tank for fire sprinklers and truck washing.

Other emergency equipment includes 2 x 1.2 MW generators and sprinkler pumps.

The refrigeration system is a 2-stage plant and is charged with 10 tons of Ammonia. It’s an indication of the store’s innovation that refrigeration ammonia is not yet freely available in Kenya.  

When the PV solar system is installed on the cold store roof, also with a capacity of 1.2 MW the store will qualify for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard, the highest US standard of Eco excellence.  

Additional equipment includes weighbridges, blast freezers and chillers, and a real-time online system which will in time allow customers to keep track of their stock.

Blast Freezers

The Tatu City cold store exceeds the standards often seen in European Australian and even US cold stores.  Its opening will change the nature of cold storage in Kenya, not least because it has added at least 25% to the country’s current cold storage capacity.  The projected regional stores will expand the cold chain stimulating agricultural production, including exports and further processing. The project will have positive implications not only for the Kenyan economy but for the whole East African region.