Solar Powered Agro-Processing Machinery

Agsol manufactures leading edge solar powered agro-processing machinery, built to improve livelihoods in off-grid farming communities.

Photo of Matt Carr
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Agsol

Year founded

2017

Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50,000 - 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Australia

Headquarters location: City

Sydney

Location(s) of impact

Papua New Guinea: country wide
Vanuatu: country wide
Indonesia: Sumba Island

Website

www.agsol.com

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Over a billion of the world’s poorest rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. The staple foods like maize that they depend on require processing before eating. Current options include manual processing or using a mechanised mill, usually diesel powered. But diesel mills are only found in larger villages where there’s a sufficient customer base to ensure their viability. That means people in small villages only have laborious and time inefficient options available, which helps keep them trapped in the poverty cycle.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Agsol designs and manufactures solar powered agro-processing machines for small rural villages. Our solar powered machines simultaneously provide a solution that generates income, improves labour efficiency, boosts village economies and quickly pays for a scalable solar energy platform.

Agsol’s post-harvest agro-processing machines transform the most important staple food crops into more nutritous and higher value products – e.g. maize flour, milled rice, grated cassava. They are efficient, robust and smart, and replace dirty diesel mills or laborious manual processing.

The solar power system that powers Agsol machines provides access to modern energy at a scale that can deliver a host of other life-changing benefits – clean water, refrigeration, power reticulation and communications to name a few. Adaptable energy like this in a rural village is transformative, and our semi-industrial machines make that reality affordable and attainable.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Agsol has developed out of an established Papua New Guinean company, PSS - www.psspng.com, that released the first range of solar powered agro-processing machines in 2015. In two years, we have sold over 600 of those machines and 143kW of solar power, primarily in PNG, Vanuatu and Indonesia.

Based on the monitoring data provided by our partners, we estimate these machines have provided approximately 14,000 households with improved access to milling and energy services. This impact has the greatest benefit to women, who are usually the ones tasked with household food preparation, and spend 30-60 minutes per day manually processing or transporting food to/from diesel mills. Our machines reduce this task to just a few minutes, and in doing so, are presently saving between 2 to 4 million hours of women's time each year.

Finally, solar mills shift business away from diesel mills. We estimate the 330 solar rice mills sold in PNG is off-setting over 100,000L of diesel fuel per year.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Agsol was established as a commercially oriented business with a strong social mission. To date, Agsol is 100% self-financed by the two co-founders and from sales revenues. That will change in the next 6 months as we seek to raise investment capital to develop our new proprietary range of machines and expand the company.

Agsol has indirectly benefited from grant funding on a few occasions, but in all instances, we were not the primary grant recipient and it was for product purchases only - i.e. tech provider to a project. We will continue to pursue grant opportunities, both directly and indirectly, to support our growth into new markets. However, our primary approach to financial sustainability will always be driven by commercial sales.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Agsol innovates at the intersection of agriculture and energy to deliver solutions for small off-grid farming villages. By linking productive agro-processing machines, solar power and smart technology, we provide rural entrepreneurs, farmers and communities, a new tool break out of the poverty cycle.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

There was no single moment that sparked Agsol. Rather, it formed as a growing niggle in the mind of one of the co-founders. And the niggle was, that most rural electrification efforts in the developing world were being done the wrong way around - they focussed on domestic supply.

Over the past 100 years, however, successful rural electrification the world over has predominantly been industry led. Power was brought into a rural area for a productive and industrial purpose first (e.g. a textile factory, manufacturing plant, timber mill), and domestic supply came second. This model works, because the energy system pays for itself from the outset.

The final piece of the puzzle came when the same co-founder visited China and saw the number of electric motor bikes on the road - all being powered by DC motors. With a history in agricultural machines and solar power, the seed was sown.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 66.7%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 33.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

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Photo of David Strelneck

Thanks for sharing info about your technology. As our network of social entrepreneurs works with local communities to spark local enterprises based on the many social and environmental benefits that result from cycling nutrients between the land and people and back again, we see "Nourishment Entrepreneurs" begin to capitalize on opportunities in new ways, rather than just selling product to market. We see solar driers being used to preserve, package and brand locally grown foods. We see solar milk chillers enabling remote dairy operations. Knowing of your solar milling technology gives us another tool to mention to local Nourishment Entrepreneurs.

Photo of Matt Carr

Thanks David. That's exactly how we view our products - "another tool" that rural communities can employ to drive economic and social change.

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