Wartburg College graduates of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin have invented a smokeless cookstove which can ease the burden of cooking for rural dwellers in Africa while serving as a handy device for camp enthusiasts in Europe and America.
The smokeless stove, apart from not discharging smoke while cooking, also has a feature which allows it to convert heat into electricity through a USB port; this allows for charging a phone.
26-year-old Nigerian, Max Chinnah, birthed the idea for the ‘Genesys’ stove from the Iowa college in the U.S. aided by his Ghanaian partner, Godwin Attigah.
The computer science degree holder assumed he had more time to impact the world but a trip to a Clinton Global Initiative conference in Miami changed his thinking.
He says: “The thing that really energized me was I found people as young as me, even younger, pursuing ambitious goals and big dreams. That helped me snap things in focus and change the course of my life, I think, for the better.”
He further told wcfcourier.com: “I didn’t really want to just create an app that didn’t add value. So I started to think about the things that are really important to me. I’ve always been intrigued by the issue of climate change, and how can we push back against that and leave a better planet for our grandkids.”
Chinnah and Attigah’s company, Terraoak Inc., has set its sights on mass manufacturing the stove with a global launch to boot.
Terraoak has a manufacturer ready to begin production pending completion of a successful Kickstarter launch this fall. The Kickstarter model requires enough units to be ordered before the project is viable and manufacturing begins.
With the partners hailing from Western Africa and being exposed to rural life and its challenges, both men have witnessed health hazards of cooking over open fires for a lengthy period.
The negative effects span eye problems and respiratory ailments which claimed Chinnah’s grandmother’s life.
The game-changer for Terraoak Inc. is that their stoves convert heat into electricity and outputs it through a USB jack to charge a phone or other small electronic device.
Chinnah says: “We are deeply committed to making this dream a reality because it’s a big problem and something we’ve experienced personally. For us it’s very real and raw and very personal.”
Terraoak already has received an order from the World Wide Fund for Nature to supply 1,000 stoves to farmers in rural Kenya.
Given that indoor air pollution from smoke-filled stoves claims some 4.3 million lives yearly, Chinnah reckons his stove can save such lives and mitigate the stress of about 1.1 billion people who lack access to reliable electricity.
Chinnah gained a scholarship to attend Wartburg in 2011 where he met his Ghanaian business partner, Attigah. The two toiled to get a patent for the invention and fund its production.
The stove won a $10,000 innovation prize at Yale University’s Global Health Innovation Conference in 2016, which funded field tests under harsh conditions in Ghana.
Terraoak later got seed funds from Red Cedar, a local organization created to help startups and entrepreneurs connect with resources to get them off the ground.
“That was incredibly instrumental for us to get our sample unit done and also get in touch with a manufacturer,” Chinnah said, adding “Before we got that, it was really hard, just excruciatingly hard, to raise funds.”
All things being equal, ‘Genesys’ would be produced in mass numbers in the coming months to bring relief to people.