This summer Russell and I took our first trip to Mozambique as part of our SunChill™ project sponsored by Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development. This was the first of two trips the Rebound team is taking to prepare for the final demonstration phase in Mozambique. Additionally, it was our first experience traveling to sub-Saharan Africa. The trip didn’t disappoint.
During the three-week trip we were able to tackle a variety of technical and business model related objectives while also expanding our Mozambique network and gaining a better idea of what it will take to move a team to Africa. Some highlights:
Value Proposition: we challenged our original hypothesis and realized that SunChill™, without any follow on cold storage, doesn’t add sufficient value. However, what pre-chilling using our technology does do is enable affordable cold storage, a major obstacle in Mozambique’s cold chain development. Imagine running vegetables through SunChill™ and then just needing an air conditioner to keep them at their target temp. See our blog post “Cooling vs. Storage” for more info.
Business Model: we want SunChill™ to have a direct impact on small-holder farmers, but to do this we need to find early adopters with the education, capital, and network to make the technology a commercial success. These two groups intersect on medium size farms with out-grower programs and farmers associations. In Mozambique neither of these groups have cold storage, but know that its use will open up additional income opportunities via sales to restaurants, hotels and even some exports. They’ll be our go-to-market sector, but we’ll need to get the technology into a broader market and that strategy will need more time to develop.
Partners: we finally met Koos and Ingrid van de Merwe of Mozambique Organicos and were able to see the exact location we’ll be demonstrating SunChill™. They have an impressive operation and we’re mutually excited about the potential the technology offers. Time was also spent with Alexandre Negrão of TechnoServe (TNS), our primary contact near Inhambane as well as members of the TNS team working in Maputo.
Inhambane: our introduction to the region was a pretty spectacular one, with a delicious, bayside lunch provide by Alex Negrao. The town itself is a perfect size to embrace community while also having sufficient vendors to provide balance of system supplies for the demonstration unit.
The Community: there certainly are a lot of organizations working on agriculture projects in Mozambique and this will become very useful when looking for data and expanding demonstration projects. The Mozambique Agriculture Research Institute (IIAM) has strong data sets and an ongoing relationship with Michigan State University. They’ll be a great resource moving forward.
The Beaches: we had the opportunity to spend time on some amazing beaches. While working at Mozambique Organicos, we spent our evenings and mornings at the Doxa Beach Hotel in Zavora. Then, after our time in Maxixe, we had a 2.5-day working trip in Tofo where I was able to escape for a few surf sessions.
In April 2015, Jack and Sean are headed to Mozambique to build, commission and demonstrate a SunChill™ system. This November, Russell and Jack will spend some time in the Inhambane region sorting out the logistics of that April move and conducting more detailed planning with our partners.