Solar Freeze is a Kenyan-owned company founded by Dysmus Kisilu in 2016 offering affordable and sustainable cooling to farmers and displaced communities in Eastern Kenya through solar-powered cold rooms. The technology is intended for food and medicine storage in hot and arid climates, supporting farmers, small businesses, clinics and individuals.
Dysmus was 2019 MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellow, a programme supporting local entrepreneurs to bring poverty-alleviating products and services to emerging markets at scale. Community Jameel supported the programme for its first three years. Solar Freeze has since partnered with MIT D-Labs researchers to build and pilot their design for an air-forced evaporative cooling chamber in Makuni County Kenya, where a team led by Solar Freeze built an off-grid forced-air evaporative cooling chamber at a produce market at a cost of USD 15,000, powered by solar photovoltaic panels.
The pilot, which was supported by 2021 J-WAFS Solutions Grant, formed part of a wider mission of the MIT D-Lab team led by research engineer Eric Verploegen to validate the cooling chamber design and make it freely available to users around the world. Eric's team has since done with the development of an open-source website which provides design and construction documentation as well as tutorial videos.
Similarly, Solar Freeze aims for its technology to be widely accessible. In 2018, Solar Freeze began working in Kakuma refugee camp, a settlement of about 200,000 people, where access to clean and affordable energy is extremely limited. Solar Freeze offers a business model tailored to the needs of camp residents, offering customers pay-as-you-go cooling through small solar-powered freezers. The freezers are used by clinics to store vaccines or small shops to store cold drinks, who pay a daily cost in order to eventually own the freezer outright.
In addition, the company offers technical training in farming areas and among refugee communities through its 'Each one Teach one' initiative to help residents, especially women, develop skills and find jobs connected to renewable energy. The training also tackles the combined barriers of lack of opportunity, skills and education among displaced communities. As of 2021, it has taught 100 people to install and maintain freezers and other solar equipment and technology, and also covers skills such as sales.
In 2021, Solar Freeze won an Ashden Award, which recognises outstanding climate solutions and brings them publicity, grants and connections to further their work. According to its founder, Solar Freeze plans to build on its success in Kenya and expand its work into other refugee camps, and to nearby nations including Rwanda and Uganda.