It's estimated that 40 percent of grain in developing countries is lost in storage, usually to a combination of heat and moisture.
"In Nigeria, it's 50 percent," Blumberg said. "The numbers are staggering."
The emerging world is a market that frightens off a lot of—maybe the vast majority of—American investors. But Blumberg believes in his technology. His company designed a series of modular storage bins that deflect the sun's heat, keep grain dry and provide security measures against theft. The standard product is 1,200 square meters (almost 13,000 square feet) and can hold 3,000 metric tons of grain, at a cost of $200,000. In some cases, the storage bins are leased rather than sold, and some can run entirely on solar power.
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Blumberg said one system is up and running in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he is preparing the first delivery to Nigeria, where the bureaucracy moves at a glacial place in a country now dealing with Ebola. Still, he said, "it's the largest economy in Africa, and its agriculture is on the decline."
The largest deal so far, however, is the new one signed with Egypt, worth at least $350 million. An article on an Egyptian website said the government hopes to have the 164 storage units ready to replace traditional storage barns, called "dirt shounas," before the end of the harvest next April. (Story continues below the commodities quotes.)