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End of a chapter for Minus 40

End of a chapter for Minus 40

 “Looking back on the past 27 years, what would you have done differently?” Cold Link Africa asked the founders of Minus 40. “We probably would have been more daring and raised the capital needed to take Minus 40 to its full potential,” said both Neil McMurray and Steve Davison on their retirement and sale of Minus 40.

Changes at Minus 40 have been reported on in Cold Link Africa for decades and a close relationship has been kept with its owners. The founders of Minus 40 saw an opportunity to provide domestic refrigeration for homes, in particular farmers who were not connected to the national power grid.

At the time when television was first introduced in South Africa, viewing in households was restricted to only two hours in the evening. Many farmers who were not connected to the Eskom grid installed generators to power their television sets during the two hours of viewing. Minus 40 developed a chest-type freezer that could be powered from a 220V generator and the eutectic solution in its sidewalls be frozen during the time that the generator (for the television) was run each evening. The chest freezer would then provide low temperature storage until the next evening when the generator was again operated.

The demand for the Minus 40 freezer grew rapidly. The company relocated to Diep River in the Cape and was later sold to a new owner, Malcolm Reading. A few years later, the company relocated to Atlantis to take advantage of the proximity of a large labour force and the subsidy incentives offered by government to encourage the development of Atlantis as an industrial and residential hub on the West Coast.

On 1 April 1990, Steve Davison and Neil McMurray acquired ownership of Minus 40. The two had a long-standing friendship and both were keen on a change in career. McMurray, with an accounting background, had ended his term with an industrial painting contractor, while Davison ended his after one year of employment with Grenco (SA). Until his move to Minus 40, Davison, as a graduate mechanical engineer, had followed a career path in industrial ammonia refrigeration. He engaged with his peers as a member of the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (SAIRAC), which he had joined in 1975, and served as the Cape Town centre’s chairperson and national president from 1990 to 1992.

The list of products all developed in-house for 12vDC, 220V, and solar power is extensive, but the time has come for retirement. Both Davison and McMurray have decided to hang up their Minus 40 boots and start their retirement. The business has been sold but Minus 40 will continue as before with Michael Werner as its new owner.



In the early days: a much younger Steve Davison (left) and Neil McMurray with a freezer trailer.

Minus 40 product display at the Cape Industrial Show in May 1990.

Small chest freezer with hold over plates.

The 12vDC powered 80ℓ freezer with solar panel for recharging the battery.


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