Kenya’s Solar Freeze and Illuminum Greenhouses emerge winners at Cisco innovation contest




Kenya’s Solar Freeze and Illuminum Greenhouses have been named as winners in Cisco’s Problem Solver Challenge. Solar Freeze won the first runner up position, getting US$75,000 (about Kshs 7.5 million), and Illuminum Greenhouses was the second runner up, getting US$25,000 (about Kshs 2.5 million). Both are from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Solar Freeze provides portable solar cooling units that allow farmers to move and store smaller quantities of fresh produce more frequently. Illuminum Greenhouses provides smallholder farmers with affordable greenhouses and drip kits equipped with solar powered and IoT sensors that enable greater protection of crops from pests and diseases and increased water efficiency through automation.

“We celebrate the young people who took part in this season of the Cisco Global Problem Solver challenge. I am particularly proud of the two Kenyan companies that have come out on top, who have demonstrated the use of technology to solve critical challenges that affect livelihoods and communities in the country,“ says Country General Manager (GM) for Cisco East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, David Bunei.

This year, 335 teams from around the world competed for a total of US$300,000 in prizes. Teams put forth solutions addressing challenges across the environment, healthcare, critical human needs, and more. Every team showed a deep understanding of the magnitude of the problems facing our global community, and developed innovative solutions to address them.

“These two companies have illustrated that Kenyans have great ideas that are globally competitive and we are looking forward to seeing the positive impact these two companies will have for Kenyans,” says Bunei.

The entries for the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge are evaluated on four levels, namely, the innovative technology solution which accounts for 33% of the rating, feasibility of the solution (24%), impact and scale potential (33%) and finally on clarity – how well the solution is articulated at 10%.

The African continent had three winners, two from Kenya mentioned above and one from Nigeria known as TREP LABS. The Grand prize of $100,000 was awarded to Oorja from Imperial College London, UK.

The Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge was launched in 2017 to recognize post-secondary and recent graduates who have developed a technology solution that drives economic development and/ or solves a social or environmental problem. The 2019 Challenge attracted more than 300 submissions from around the world, all competing to get a share of the awards totalling $300,000 in prize money.

The winners will gain visibility, funding, and encouragement through the challenge, enabling the social entrepreneurs to move their solutions to the next level.

Solar Freeze (founded by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology students in Kenya) is a portable, solar powered cold storage solution, mentorship and training program, and mobile app that helps smallholder farmers increase their post-harvest sales by preventing food loss.

Illuminum Greenhouses (also founded by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology students in Kenya) provides smallholder farmers with affordable greenhouses and drip kits equipped with solar powered and IoT sensors that enable greater protection of crops from pests and diseases and increased water efficiency through automation.

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