Soleva

Soleva: Feeding the world sustainably one breathable bag at a time

Lund, SwedenMozambique
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Idea
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Is it reasonable that many people in developing countries go hungry even though enough food is grown to satisfy the needs of the population? Our solution: use breathable bags and solar energy to preserve juicy fruits that would otherwise spoil, thereby improving food security in a sustainable way.

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

What if breathable bags combined with solar energy could end world hunger?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Mozambique, a large amount of fruit ripens in a short period and what cannot be eaten immediately, spoils, and never reaches the end consumer. Post-harvest losses are 25-40% [1] (which does not include wild fruit) yet 25% of the population is undernourished [2]. Many fruits are juicy and difficult to preserve with traditional sun drying. A simple and affordable fruit preservation technology in areas with no infrastructure is greatly needed.

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

Our patent-pending solution is to use opaque, re-useable, breathable bags and solar energy to concentrate juicy fruits close to the point of harvest. The bags are filled with juice/purée, sealed, put in the sun and left to dry. If the relative humidity in the outside air is less than 100%, water will leave the bag as vapour. Within a few days, enough water is removed that the natural fruit sugars create a self-preservative effect and the concentrate can be stored for up to a year at room temperature. The bags are hygienic as they keep out pests and microorganisms. The concentrate can be re-hydrated or eaten as a dried fruit snack. We believe this solution can empower people to make better use of agricultural resources they already have.

Awards

Lund University Innovation Award Finalist (Sep 2014), Invitation to Climate-KIC Nordic Accelerator (Sep 2015)
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 rural Mozambique, many smallholder farms are located at least 5 km from the main road and so it is difficult to transport fruit to the local markets. Sometimes people from the markets drive out to these properties to buy the fruits to bring back to the markets and sell. Unfortunately, because each type of fruit ripens all at once during its peak season and all of the neighbouring farmers have a surplus, the fruit has very little market value. I learned from my visit to Mozambique in April 2015 that the amount earned by the farmers for about 200 tangerines is no more than 1 USD. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if these farmers could utilise and generate income from all of this fruit instead of basically giving it away or letting it spoil?

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

In Mozambique, there are about 3.8 million smallholder farmers [3]. Fruit trees are often spread abundantly throughout a farmer’s land. I observed this when I visited Mozambique in April 2015 and met smallholder-farming families that were extremely enthusiastic about our technology. Even if only 25% of smallholder farmers in Mozambique buy one 1 L bag, this would be about 1 million litres of juice converted into concentrated product for home-use or sale. Since the bags are re-useable, the amount would be much more, and so the potential is enormous! Since the majority of agricultural workers are women [4], we would be empowering women to improve food security for their families and earn extra income. The bags would also be made in Mozambique creating additional jobs in the community. The future impact would be economic growth, improved gender equity, less hunger and poverty reduction.

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

Because of our collaboration with Eduardo Mondlane University, we plan to first disseminate the technology in Mozambique. With 33 million smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa [5] and 1.5 billion people living in smallholder households worldwide [6], the potential to improve food security and reduce poverty across the globe is huge. We hope to spread the technology first throughout Africa and then the rest of the world with the help of NGO’s. In 5 years, we envision shared community setups and even people in urban areas in developing countries drying fruits from trees growing in their yards.
Sustainability

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

The idea is that local people manufacture the bags since the bags will then gain more value and credibility. We would provide sealing machines at a subsidised price if the bag producer would also buy the fabric from us. If only 25% of the Mozambican smallholder farmers bought one bag (=1 million bags) at 3 USD/bag and we made 0.10 USD/bag, we would earn enough income to sustain operations. More bags and more farmers is also completely realistic.

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

Our technology is beneficial because no backup fuel source or refrigerated transport/storage is needed and the bags are re-useable. Juicy fruits cannot be sliced and put in the sun to dry. Open trays can be used to dehydrate juices using solar energy but this is unhygienic and handling is difficult. Firewood/fuel can be used to boil off the water but this is not economic and results in poor air quality. Industrial preservation methods such as canning and aseptic processing are only economic on the large-scale. Fermenting the juice is laborious and is often not done for religious reasons.
Team

Founding Story

A few years ago, one of the co-founders, Petr, was in Mozambique on a field trip with his Mozambican PhD students. He noticed large amounts of spoiling citrus fruits covering the ground and was puzzled since he knew food security was an issue. His students said that since all of the fruit ripens at the same time and there is no simple way to preserve it, the majority of it spoils. Petr had worked with membranes for years and all of a sudden had a lightbulb moment – what if we could use a foodgrade “breathable” fabric to allow even the juiciest of fruits to be dried? He returned to Sweden, tested the technique in his garden and discovered that it worked! And so the technology was born.

Team

Fredrik Malmberg, Lunderbart consult, part-time Project Manager in Soleva; Petr Dejmek, (co-founder) Prof. at dept Food Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Lunds Tekniska Högskola, part-time R&D in Soleva; Marilyn Rayner (co-founder), Docent at dept Food Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Lunds Tekniska Högskola, part-time R&D in Soleva; Ingegerd Sjöholm, Univ Lecturer at dept Food Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Lunds Tekniska Högskola, part-time R&D in Soleva; Randi Phinney (co-founder), PhD student at dept Food Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Lunds Tekniska Högskola, part-time R&D in Soleva; Mats Johansson, Prototype factory, Smarttextiles, Högskolan i Borås, part-time Materials Science Expert; Lucas Tivana, Ph.D., Lecturer at Agronomy and Forestry Eng., University Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique, part-time Fieldwork Coordinator; At the moment, our team lacks two main competencies: 1) person experienced in taking business ideas to market with expertise in different business models and strategies; 2) person experienced in doing business in Africa. We have hired a consultant recently for the first but are still seeking players/investors for the latter. In addition, we have been in contact with the Hunger Project (http://www.thp.org/our-work/where-we-work/) as we feel collaboration with NGO's will be essential for the proper dissemination of the technology in Africa.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Jakob Steen Jensen - Climate-KIC Nordic

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

co-Founder, Leading R&D

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, Zero Hunger, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action.

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

1. Ecotrophelia Europe Silver Award (Oct 2013), 2nd place for product “Choco-Quino”: developed a lactose-free and gluten-free chocolate milk replacement using four simple ingredients with the help of two teammates, placing second in the European competition.
2. European Master in Food Studies Team Project (Aug 2011 - Jul 2013): successfully led a team of 8 people in a two-year project to develop a new type of Ready To Eat meal for the elderly, as part of a MSc in Food Technology program at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
3. "Moose Biltong" Project (May - Jun 2012): acted as a consultant with one other teammate as part of an Integrated Food Project course at Lund University, resulting in the optimisation of a small-scale moose biltong production process and the creation of a business plan for the start-up company.

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

Ricardo Bernardo, Associate Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Energy and Building Design, Lunds Tekniska Högskola
Henrik Davidsson, Associate Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Energy and Building Design, Lunds Tekniska Högskola
Pia Piroschka Otte, Ph.D., Researcher at Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim, Norway
Lund University Innovation System, Lund, Sweden (http://innovation.lu.se/en)
Innovationskontor Syd, Lund, Sweden (http://www.iksyd.se/kontakt)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Smarttextiles, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden
Swerea, Kista, Sweden (http://www.swerea.se/en)
Water Innovation Accelerator, WIN, Lund, Sweden (http://winwater.se)
Climate-KIC Nordic Accelerator
Hunger Project (http://www.thp.org)
Have had preliminary contact with a mentor/consultant related to business models/strategies (name not to be disclosed)

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