On Tuesday November 7, 2017  starting 3:00 pm EAT, the RAN team together with some of the innovators, students and faculty listened to and supported two Innovators to further develop their innovative solutions. Pitch Tuesday sessions at RAN are designated for the RAN team to convene a group of experts to listen and positively critique the work being done by students, faculty, innovators and the community at large.

Among the innovators who pitched their proposed solutions on this day were;

1. The first team of innovators to pitch were those code named ‘Together for Africa’ and they are developing a solar powered incubator for hatching eggs. This incubator has been tested in some of the communities in Uganda.

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2.  The other innovator is working on the Improvement to local greenhouses; the aim of this project is to suggest an alternative structure and design for both the lighting and recycling system to reduce resource wastage and costs.

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General problem statement for which the solution is being proposed (in farms): low yield of crops, water scarcity (desertification), over transpiration, eutrophication and pests.

Benefits of the proposed solution; approximately 80% less water lost to transpiration, need less water, mixed cropping, less likely to spread disease, faster growth cycles, conditions can be controlled based on target plant hence faster growth cycles naturally and GMO free.

Some of the comments these innovators received from the audience included the following;

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  • Slides preparation-font text/size, color, and how much to place on each slide deck needs to always be checked that it is appropriate, background coloring should not be over riding the text or even too loud.
  • Need for the innovators to clearly state the key difference/uniqueness of this incubator.
  • Need to use statistics in the pitch e.g. clearly and loudly state the fact that the incubator is 85% efficient, if you install valid fertile eggs the 98% is a sure hatch etc. It is however important that whenever one if presenting figures, he/she needs to have a clear back-up as reference to these figures-What is the source of the data or facts?
  • The incubator uses both solar and batteries as sources of energy thus its strength and reliability too.
  • That the team needs to employ more energy and passion while pitching their solution so as to woo the listeners to buying in.
  • That one of the strengths in this innovation is that renewable energy is being applied in research.
  • Noted that RAN has a contact to an artisan (Mr. Katamba) working on a similar idea, so, we would link the two so that they can work on further identifying the synergies and exploring a partnership.
  • Also noted that the use of pictures and text needs to be checked as these tend to compete and confuse the viewers.
  • The Innovators were also cautioned to avoid the use of lengthy text and or sentences on a Pitch Deck as these bore the listeners but also are not communicative.
  • They were also challenged to explore a possibility of storing solar energy for night use of the egg incubator but also look at use of an inverter system to save energy.
  • On present ability of the prototype, these innovators were advised to ensure that their solution is not scary with dangling wires all around but rather improve their prototype to have some neat and safely put together prototype.
  • The cost of the solution as is now is 600,000 Uganda Shillings but the innovators were advised to carry out a market survey so as to compare with what the price is for the existing solutions.
  • Additionally, innovators were asked whether the solution would require technical expertise to set it up and they shared that once an individual is taken through the set up processes, he/she should be able to affix and run the incubator.
  • It is also important that innovators avoid sharing vague presentations so that even those that might not understand the whole incubation process can easily grasp and get up-to-speed.
  • They were also advised to always be cautious about how they present their ideas so that they ensure that the person pitching keeps that Magic Bullet’ about the proposed solution or innovation to him or herself as the end game is the actual innovation.

The other Innovation was about how to use artificial lights to enhance growth of crops and vegetables to maturity in green houses

  • This innovator was asked that different crops require different light frequencies so wont it be tedious to get a frequency for each crop? Is there something standardized?
  • She was also advised that she and team would need to develop and share a frequency manual for the different crop frequencies to the guide farmers
  • They were also asked to always keep in mind how they would like to make business out of the innovation also for sustainability purposes among others.
  • The Innovator noted that she is aspiring to become an Engineer and thus she would work with her team to make a very sophisticated system to make money. She was cautioned that the last mile farmer might not afford a sophisticated system thus need to apply the Human Centered Design Approach to effectively innovate.
  • She also noted that the innovation was employing basic research skills utilizing evidence.
  • She also noted that this solution can be used in large scale and was already being used in the USA, she and team only added a few new aspects to the same.
  • She and team also needed to ascertain that the solution would not affect the nutrient value of the crops.
  • She was asked whether the solution would have any health implications and she said none because it is completely organic although it requires the use of some software.

Recommendations

All the innovators were advised to adopt the use of Slide based presentations and to include their business models, target market and cost of the solution too in their presentations for investors. ‘As an investor, I would like to know how much the proposed solution will cost’ shared one Engineer in the Pitch Tuesday audience.

The innovators need to closely work with some Engineers at RAN including the Innovation Consortium to further develop and or build these solutions.

Innovators were excited to receive all this feedback and pledged to immediately link up with the suggested working teams to push forth the efforts.

‘I must admit that this Pitch Tuesday Session at RAN has indeed opened up my mind even more to bigger thoughts in regards to the solution I am working on. I am more energized to work even harder. Thank you RAN Team’ noted Inaara Savani one of the innovators who pitched their solution, an Alumni of The Aga Khan Academy Mombasa and Director of Stand up Shout Out, Uganda http://www.suso.world/suso-global/uganda/

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Apply for the Pitch Tuesday Session at RAN on www.ranlab.org and https://www.ranlab.org/pitch-tuesday.