Innov8 Imperial Limited

Innov8 Imperial Limited: Project CopHee

London, United KingdomJimma, Ethiopia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Project CopHee is a coffee quality improvement program targeted at small to medium scale farmers in Africa. We are the first knowledge and technology product company to empower farmers with the ability to monitor its coffee processing and improves its output.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if coffee farmers can benefit fully from their harvest and lift themselves out of poverty?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Coffee trade is a vital source of income for many developing countries. However, coffee processing technology has remained stagnant causing inconsistency in quality. Inadequate funding to promote ownership, poor communication infrastructure and distance to the processing facilities have created a gap in the market. As a result, coffee farmers suffer from income loss and low yield.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Currently, Ethiopian coffee farmers lose a large portion of their harvest during fermentation of the coffee beans because this process is not optimized and also not fully understood. For the beans to reach export quality, the fermentation process must be terminated in a specific pH range. We are currently developing a device which measures the pH value of a batch of coffee undergoing fermentation and can stop the process when a specific pH value is reached by automatically opening a valve which drains the fermentation container. Additionally, the device can collect data of the pH and other chemical properties which we will use to fully understand and optimize the fermentation process.


1st, McKinsey Venture Academy 2015 Finalist, Santander Pitch 2015 Nominee, Rolex Award 2015 (on-going)
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In Ethiopia, 80% of coffee farmers are smallholder farmers, all their livings comes from the crop of coffee. Most of them are not adequately equipped with the technology and knowledge to tackle the complexities of coffee profiling. This results in poorly produced coffee beans due to a lack of controlled environment. As a consequence, lower yield volume and high post harvest losses limit income and ownership of farms. Using Project CopHee, farmers will have the possibility to receive accurate measures of the chemical properties and monitor the quality of coffee beans using the same methodology as farms with more advanced equipments. Our device, fully automated and easy to use allows farmers to obtain the maximum income out of their harves

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

After winning the McKinsey Venture Academy, the team has established the support from McKinsey and Company, as well as generated interest from various organisations (Technoserve) and governing bodies. At this stage, we are preparing for the pilot study in Ethiopia which will be conducted at the end of 2015. The pilot will run for approximately 2 months and will be installed in one privately-owned and two community-owned processing facilities. During this period, the prototype will be tested over to gather data for best coffee profiles and to adapt the device for local conditions. In our pilot field testing, we also seek to identify the chemical properties in an optimal coffee processing environment. Over the next six months, Project CopHee aims to partner with at least two NGOs with operations in different parts of Africa and plan for our expansion outside of Ethiopia.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In terms of long term growth, Project CopHee aims to impact 80% of the smallholder farmers in Ethiopia by 2020 whilst maintaining sustainable growth for the organisation. To ensure that, we have to expand geographically and increase our product offering over the course of the next three years. We will also continue to build our coffee profiles as we expand into different coffee producing region. Our primary operating location will be Africa, however we plan to expand to other developing parts of the world such as Vietnam where coffee export is also a primary source of income.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Project CopHee is currently focusing on scaling and product development. We are actively seeking for technical talents to accelerate the product development and local contacts to facilitate our market entry. In 2015, the team has secured £10,000 of funding and mentorship for winning the McKinsey Venture Academy. Our source of finance will be through grants from local authorities and revenues generated from selling our products and services to far

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Project CopHee is the first technology focused organisation for farmers in Africa, providing accurate data-driven information for farmers to improve the coffee quality during the processing stage. We have currently identified similar players in other parts of the world, however limited resources and contacts in Africa often make it difficult to enter and scale in our operating locations. Our key distinctive also include providing digital profile of coffee, full automation of the device, and partnerships with local authorities.

Founding Story

We started as part of Imperial Consulting Group, a student consultancy organisation at Imperial College London. Together, we worked on various voluntary consulting projects to solve social problems for clients. This made us appreciate the importance and fulfilment of helping others with simple technology. Hence, we decided to compete in McKinsey Venture Academy 2015 to create an impact for the society. Ola, who had knowledge of the African market, came up with the idea of a device to improve the quality of coffee. As a team, we made the idea a reality and developed the prototype that allowed us to win the competition.


Our founding team consists of members from a diverse education background and have worked in various fields, ranging from engineering, consulting and finance. In addition to the support from PhD and Masters students at Imperial College London, the team has been able to adopt scientific applications with practical business solutions. In addition, the team has established the support from McKinsey and Company, and TechnoServe.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Invitation request from Ashoka employee

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder / Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

In 2014, I attempted to launch an online job board platform catering to the Nigerian job market. The premise was to entice employers to advertise their jobs on my website, and attract jobseekers to these jobs. The platform was built to be financially self sustainable as it introduced tiered pricing structures for both Employers and Jobseekers. For the Employers, they were able to pay online for additional advertisement and recruitment privileges including displaying a banner on the homepage with their company logo, searching the database of CV's uploaded by jobseekers, contacting interested jobseekers directly, tracking the progress of applicants, and more. Similarly, the jobseekers also had paid features allowing them to upload video CVs, include a priority feature to their CVs, and much more.
At it's peak, the platform generated a 100 employers advertising jobs and grew to a subscription base of over 500 job seekers. However, it was not able to generate revenue via the online payment platform due to the relatively new status of this platform to the Nigerian market and as such low adoption rates.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Main project stakeholders are my team members, Technoserve, Ethiopian partners and McKinsey consultants. My team and I are currently based in London, where we conducted our research and development to improve our device and the process to accurately gather the acidity data. Our partner in Ethiopia, Technoserve, is responsible for facilitating our interaction with the farmers on the ground. My team has the support from McKinsey consultants based in London and Africa, with whom we are in regular contact with. We also intend to partner with the local universities based in Ethiopia and are scheduled for meetings with select universities in December this year. On the periphery, we have built relationships with 2 other coffee start-ups operating in the Ethiopian market, and also extended relationships to another Africa-based startup in the scaling stage of their lifecycle.