Lucky Iron Fish

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Lucky Iron Fish: A Simple Solution to A Global Health Problem

Guelph, CanadáCamboya
Year Founded:
2012
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Lucky Iron Fish is a growing social enterprise with big aspirations: to tackle and wipe out iron deficiency in the developing and developed world. Its tested cooking cast iron fish, seen as lucky in Cambodian culture, is proven to reduce iron anemia when used daily during food preparation.

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

What if we put a Lucky Iron Fish in every pot and cured 3.5 billion people around the world suffering from iron deficiency?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Iron deficiency is a problem of global proportions. Mostly seen in the developing world and in marginalized populations, iron deficiency affects 3.5 billion people, which results in failure to thrive in children, anemia, weakness, impaired cognition, increased risk of illness - even death. Iron pills are common, but to many people in the developing world, taking pills every day has unpleasant side effects and is not culturally acceptable.

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

Founded in 2012, B Corp certified Lucky Iron Fish is a growing social enterprise with big aspirations: to tackle and wipe out iron deficiency around the world. The carefully formulated and tested iron ingot, cast in the shape of a fish that is seen as lucky in Cambodian culture where it was first introduced, has been shown to cost-effectively reduce instances of iron deficiency and improve both circulating and stored iron levels. Cooking with the fish everyday halves the prevalence of iron anemia among women and increases iron levels for the entire family, which in turn boosts energy and productivity. And the best news: When you purchase a Fish for your family for $25 on LuckyIronFish.com, we will donate a fish to a family in need.

Awards

Clinton Commitment to Action Award from Clinton Global Initiative University, Grand Challenges Canada, the Cannes International Lions Festival, the Edison Awards, the CLIO Awards, EthicMark Awards and the Design For Asia Awards.
Impact: How does it Work

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

We believe the following testimonial from Katie provides the perfect example of the Lucky Iron Fish in action: "When I first heard about the Lucky Iron Fish, I had to have one. Being pregnant with my second child, I know how important my iron levels are. If I can avoid taking liquid or pill supplements, I'm all for it! For the past 3 months, we've been incorporating the Lucky Iron Fish into our daily routine. It's been so easy! We boil our drinking water with it, and make tons of fresh broth for adding to our nightly meals. I feel great knowing not only myself, but my growing babe are full of iron, and my whole family is benefitting from our newest family member...our little, but mighty fish!"

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

Lucky Iron Fish is a clinically proven, safe, and affordable tool to help reduce iron deficiency rates - cooking with a Lucky Iron Fish reduces the instances of anemia in women by 50% and can add up to 90% of an entire family's daily required dose of iron, boosting energy and productivity levels. Once we identified that the fish was a symbol for luck in Cambodian culture where Lucky Iron Fish was first introduced, and added an inscription meaning "Lucky" on the body of the Fish, we saw adoption and persistence rates in clinical trials increase significantly, upwards of 90%. This past year, our sales have grown from 100 Fish sold/month to 100 Fish sold/hour. 70,000 Fish have been sold so far this year, and another 70,000 have been donated to families who need it most, benefiting approximately 250,000 people. We project rolling out to new markets & doubling our impact next year.

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

The World Bank estimates $70B (USD) in GDP is lost every year due to iron deficiency related productivity loss, and 3.5 billion people are affected at some stage in their lives in both developed and developing countries. Current programs are expensive and ineffective – in the last 15 years, despite spending 20% more on iron supplement programs, iron deficiency has INCREASED by 10%. Lucky Iron Fish is THE simple, effective solution to this serious health problem. We have shown that Lucky Iron Fish is acceptable to cultures across the world. Our goal is simply to “put a Fish in every pot.”
Sustainability

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

Our long-term goals include leveraging regional growth to further solidify Lucky Iron Fish as a global solution, expand our partnerships & ecommerce, further local economies in which we operate and get to 1M Fish sold (and equal amount donated) in five years. We will continue our commitment to running a profitable, sustainable and scalable B Corporation & constantly improve all aspects of how we do business. Pls refer to attachment for more info.

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

We are 1st to market with the disruptive idea of cooking with an iron ingot formulated and tested for optimal iron absorption. It is easier/lighter to use & transfers iron to food at higher/more consistent levels than traditional iron pots, it doesn't present side effects as iron supplements do, and it is better than iron sprinkled powder, which goes stale & affects the taste of food. It's also more cost-effective: In Cambodia, a $5 Lucky Iron Fish provides the daily iron needs for a whole family for 5 years; whereas pills cost the average family $30/year. Pls refer to attachment for more info
Team

Founding Story

Working in refugee camps with the World Food Program, I marveled at the staff's abilities and fortitude, but became dissatisfied with philanthropy. Simply giving people food and shelter did not address root causes. There had to be a better way. I saw an ad to commercialize a health innovation concept called Happy Fish by biomedical science PhD candidate Chris Charles, his response to his shocking discovery that 50% of Cambodians suffer from iron deficiency, which is roughly consistent in developing countries globally. I dove right in and scaled up the invention, first by modifying its shape & brand to Lucky Iron Fish, then setting up our for-profit operations infused with social good.

Team

Gavin Armstrong - President and CEO/Co-Founder (Full-time) Tania Framst - Vice President of Operations (Full-time) Lydia Summerlee - Impact and Engagement Specialist (Full-time) Davuth Haem - Manager, Cambodian Operations (Full-time) Dr. Alastair Summerlee, Executive Director Kirchner Food Fellowship Program, Professor Biomedical Science, University of Guelph - Chair of the Board Christopher Charles, PhD, M.D. Candidate, McMaster University, Canada and V.P. Global Health, Canadian Federation of Medical Students - Board Member and Co-Founder Jocelyn Mackie, Vice President of Operations and General Counsel, Grand Challenges Canada - Board Member Steven Dauphin, Director, Food Security Group and Director, Kirchner Food Fellowship - Board Member Gordon Peters, Managing Director, Emerging Markets Consulting - Board Member Simon Cooper, President & Managing Director, Asia Pacific Marriott International, Inc. - Board Member In Cambodia, we also employ nearly 50 disabled Cambodians (16 are new to the team as of this year), many of whom are landmine victims from low-income communities, through the Watthan Cooperative. In Canada, we hired three new positions this past year, and we're slated to increase to 6 full-time positions in January 2016.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Through Ashoka's website

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

President and CEO/Co-Founder

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]

Zero Hunger, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production.

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

I have organized and arranged emergency food packing events at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada for three years in a row (2011-2013). During the events we packed and distributed meals for more than one million people starving in Haiti after the earthquake and in Mauritania as famine started to take hold in West Africa. A total of 3,000 volunteers from the University, City of Guelph and surrounding communities participated in the food packing events and I raised over $200,000 to support these events. The first two packing events were successfully entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of emergency-relief meals packed in one hour: ~150,000 in 2011 and over 350,000 in 2012. In recognition of my efforts, I was the first Canadian to receive the Clinton Leadership Award for Hunger Relief and also received the inaugural Michäelle Jean Award for Emergency Food Hunger Relief.

My “crowing achievement” is being recognized by the Clinton Foundation three times for my contributions to hunger relief, and being the only Canadian to receive the Clinton Hunger Leadership Award.

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

We've recently received $880,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund our third clinical trial - it is a more robust, multi-regional trial to further validate Lucky Iron FIsh's efficacy and optimal iron absorption rates as well as demonstrate market viability for India, Africa and Latin America. In undergoing this trial, the results of which we anticipate will be favorable, it will help build Lucky Iron Fish's credibility and open the door to partnerships with larger multi-national NGOs that specialize in delivering aid to underserved and crisis-stricken communities. Their nutrition product standards are pretty rigorous and typically necessitate the backing of a thorough multi-regional clinical trial.

We partner with local government, vendors and other NGOs with similar missions to share distribution networks, leverage synergistic opportunities and help distribute the Fish free of cost to those who need it most. We also employ nearly 50 disabled Cambodians, many of whom are landmine victims from low-income communities, through the Watthan Cooperative.

Comments

Godfrey Mititi's picture

I admire the experience on the field of humanitarian aid..this gives u the edge