By Stephen Wakhu
JKUAT Tech Expo‘s Dennis Kipkogei Chang’ach and his Makaridi Cooler team has landed the prestigious Leaders in Innovation Commercialisation Grant from the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA) in partnership with the National Research Fund and the British High Commission in Kenya. In the same winning spree, Lisa Wanjiru Kimondo, Brian Were and Charles Oduk bagged various prizes at the prestigious 2017/2018 National Innovation Awards spearheaded by the KENIA.
The Makaridi Cooler is an innovative agri-tech solution that enables affordable and efficient cold storage of perishable farm produce in off-grid areas such as tomatoes, french beans and fruits.
Dennis observed that the grant will be key to his team when piloting the Makaridi Cooler for horticulture farmers reducing post-harvest losses and thus improving food security in Kenya. “The automated solar powered cooler incorporates modern technology into the traditional charcoal cooler, offering a convenient and efficient way of extending the shelf-life of perishable farm produce at an affordable price,” explained Dennis.
The 2017/2018 National Innovation Award attracted over 100 applicants who were shortlisted, out of which, the best three candidates were selected in the six categories as per the call. The categories included; Health; Environment, Water and Sanitation; Agriculture; ICT Application; Renewable Energy; and Engineering and Manufacturing.
Lisa was the 1st runner up in the health category with her Digital Stethoscope innovation pocketing Kshs. 350,000. The innovation dubbed the DigiSteth is a medical device used to listen to different body sounds, and it has been modified to enable the amplifying, filtering, recording, playback visualisation and transmitting of sound in real time to other devices thus contributing to telemedicine and health informatics.
According to Lisa, such an initiative by KENIA will be instrumental in supporting young innovators to commercialise their innovations.
“The money won will help my partner, Theodore Kamau and I to advance the R&D aspect of our innovation to escalate DigiSteth further,” opined Lisa.
In the Environment, Water and Sanitation category saw Brian emerge 1st runners up with his Begi BoraInnovation bagging Kshs. 350,000. The project is about production of Eco-friendly bags with used baby diapers. The diapers are collected from pits then taken through a sanitation process by cleaning with warm water with a little chlorine to disinfect the materials. They are then sun dried for 4 – 6 hours. Afterwards, the outermost (non-woven fabric) is then peeled off as it is the raw material needed. Several of them are collected and sewed together to create a stronger lining. Thereafter, different designs of carriage bags are made from the gathered materials and ready for use.
“The cash will be key in acquiring relevant licenses from NEMA since I will be dealing with waste materials. This will allow me to venture into business with my innovation with ease,” said Brian.
The Smart multi-terrain Multipurpose Agricultural Hybrid Vehicle spearheaded by Charles was the 2nd runners up in the Engineering and Manufacturing category taking home Kshs. 150,000. The innovation comprises of an integrated aerial vehicle (hexacopter drone) and a six-legged (hexapod) land walking robot. The operation may be automatic; meaning it could be programmed to perform automatically both flight and ground locomotion or semi-automatic depending on farmer’s needs and specifications. The system is integrated with various sensors to perform various farm tasks.
Charles attests that funding has been a challenge to the advancement of his innovation. “I will now be able to purchase the relevant equipments to improve my innovation to become market ready,” said Charles. He also says, it will help him do proper market research for his targeted farmers to establish how to effectively and efficiently support their needs.