A cool innovation: Sask. entrepreneur launches first made-for-workplace fridge

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WATCH: Shared fridges have been a hassle in the workplace for ages, but a Saskatchewan entrepreneur has found a cool, unique solution to the long-standing problem – Jan 17, 2021

Like most new and innovating business ventures, where the concept is driven out of necessity, the ArcticShelf fridge is no different.

After returning to the University of Saskatchewan from an internship in Calgary, the idea came to ArcticShelf CEO Dawson Norrish, and it’s consumed his mind ever since.

“At the internship, I was able to keep food in the fridge at work, which allowed me to eat healthier,” Norrish said. “When I came back to school I didn’t have access to one, which was very frustrating.  I was just like, why, with every workplace on the planet having a fridge for their staff, why is the university the only place that doesn’t have a fridge.”

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With that thought in his mind, Norrish took to designing the ArcticShelf, a multi-unit, locker-style fridge.

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The fridge’s design allows for single-user contact within their own unit and is controlled by an application on the user’s phone, allowing them mobile access to their unit.

“You download the app, you create a profile, and then using our map functionality you’ll be able to select the locker closest to you,” Norrish explained. “You’ll select the location you’re at, then you pay, and you’re good to go.”

“It came down to ease of use,” he added. “Making it easy to find, easy to use, and with the mobile app there’s no key to lose, we figured if we just have the locks directly in the fridge, and hooked up to the internet, that would save a lot of time, and a lot of money.”

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His test site, the University of Saskatchewan, clearly agreed with Norrish’s movement as over 200 people had signed up to use the fridge in under eight hours.

In his mind, Norrish had initially seen his product feeding the need at universities where students had no access to fridges, while also becoming the workplace fridge of the future.

“We decided to take our product and really rethink what the workplace fridge was all about,” Norrish said. “The idea was that every workplace on the planet has a fridge for their staff, but, all of those fridges are residential fridges, they’re meant for a family of four, not 50 coworkers. They’re messy, disorganized, and you have to fight for your little spot. We really took this as an opportunity to create a solution for the workplace.”

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The flames of creative expansion were fanned by the COVID-19 restrictions that came into effect just two weeks after the initial ArcticShelf launch.

After seeing positive numbers from their limited run, Norrish and his team took their next challenge in stride, realizing the positive impact the ArcticShelf could have in both a pandemic and post-pandemic world.

“We’re really doing this to change the way that people eat in the future,” Norrish explained. “You’re going to get your own personal space to store food, condiments, without the risk that anyone will touch it. That’s going to allow staffs to eat healthier, to stay at work longer, to not leave during work hours and expose themselves to COVID.”

“It’s been exciting to work on something with such an amazing upside,” CTO Chris Kotelmach added. “When you look at food options that are available in the workplace and in schools, healthy is not the convenient option, the convenient option is usually not the best food,” he continued. “To be a part of actually being able to change the world, and create something that has never existed before is incredibly exciting.”

The company is ever-changing with daily strides toward future advancements.

One of their next expansions is coming in the form of a pre-stocked fridge unit, where users can subscribe to a meal plan provided by a local kitchen.

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“Every single food delivery platform that exists right now sells restaurant food, so, nobody is really thinking about the catering companies, and they’ve been really hurt because of COVID,” Norrish said. “They have the opportunity to create bulk meals that are way cheaper than restaurant food, so, we’re going to allow them to access the market through our platform.”

“We’re focused on local catering companies that have no opportunities to generate revenue right now, and provide them a platform to access customers at work,” he concluded.

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