Arctic Shelf Revolutionizes the Workplace Refrigerator

Arctic Shelf, led by CEO Dawson Norrish, one of the youngest founders to win at a Co.Labs Co.Launch finale, has business wisdom beyond its years, not to mention a fresh perspective. Arctic Shelf is taking the refrigerator — the most undervalued asset in the home besides the door knob and the light bulb says Norrish — and specifically redesigning it for the workplace to make it more useful and to better serve workers and students.

The Arctic Shelf refrigerator is a sleek modular design containing 10 individual mini-fridges that prospective users can find, rent and open via mobile app. The fridge allows users to securely and sanitarily store food, reducing the risk of cross-contamination, providing a safe (and sometimes only) storage option and minimizing hauling around food, not to mention reducing potential workplace spats (someone always uses the wrong creamer!).

Norrish initially came up with the idea when he returned to school from an internship in a downtown Calgary business and didn’t have access to the same amenities on campus. “There was no refrigeration on campus and the pain point was very clear to me,” said Dawson, describing the long hours at school either lugging around his food or relying on on-campus food that was often more costly and more unhealthy. “Every workplace on the planet has a fridge, why not universities?” So, he got to work.

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In September 2019, he surveyed his fellow students to see if they would be interested in a refrigerated storage system on campus and if they would be willing to pay $20/month for it. The results came back with 70% interested and 40% willing to pay, so Norrish started to fundraise money towards building five prototypes and launched Arctic Shelf officially on February 24, 2020… right in time for the pandemic to hit and Canadian universities to close.

While the initial product was viable in a COVID world — especially as an additional option while cafeterias remain closed — their initial target market, universities, was not. Arctic Shelf decided to go to market with the original product built for university students, but expanded its target audiences to include workplaces traditionally without food storage options or reliant upon residential options like co-working spaces, property management, manufacturing and health care. The new audiences brought new insights to the original product, and new challenges. “What worked for students wasn't going to work for the workplace customers,” said Norrish. “[Workplaces] have a greater attention to detail and want better finishing options and have a greater need for space efficiency.”

With that intel, they adapted the product to meet these upgraded specifications and added customization options like finishes in white, black or anodized aluminum with potentially more on the way. For those interested in checking out the real thing, the Concourse at Innovation Place in Saskatoon is the proud home of an Arctic Shelf.

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“Ultimately, our end goal is making healthy eating convenient and cost effective and we want people to feel comfortable with how they store their food at work,” said Norrish. “We’re just trying to make things easier for people.”

Does your company have a product or prototype it would like to demo at Innovation Place? Let us know! We’re always interested in showcasing new products by our tenants.

— January 22, 2021