Partner: Off-Grid Electric
Since the Extreme course during which the students partnered with Off-Grid Electric, the Kukua project has spun off into their own start-up organization, Kukua Labs. Kukua Labs develops energy-efficient, solar-ready appliances that improve energy access and incomes of off-grid families in resource limited settings, starting in Tanzania.
The reach of small-scale home-solar in developing countries continues to grow. Increasingly, families living beyond the reach of reliable grid power are able to light their homes. Kukua Labs believes these solar systems can do more than provide light, they can economically support a family. Kukua Labs partners with solar organizations offering systems consisting of a small solar panel (60-100W) and storage battery (100-180Wh). Many of these providers offer their systems on a lease-to-own payment model and are eager to provide income-generating, or “productive use,” appliances to their customers as a means to combat high payment default rates. Productive use appliances benefit the solar provider, ensuring monthly payments are met, while having happy customers. Kukua serves the rural and peri-urban families who already have a variety of ways to make money, and our solar appliances are built to enhance their daily activities.
We’ve started with raising chickens. Abundant, minimal input, and nutritious – chickens supplement a farming family’s diet and income, and represent an important store of value, much like a bank account. Lacking a way to predictably grow their flock, millions of farmers seek an affordable, off-grid means of maintaining and growing their chicken investments.
A quick and effective way to grow the size of a chicken flock is through artificial incubation. The Kukua Incubator enables farmers who lack conventional electrical-grid access to reliably hatch chicks in their own home by making artificial incubation solar-power-compatible. Emphasizing energy efficiency and hatch success, Kukua Incubator can operate on less power than it takes to charge a cell phone, while delivering equivalent hatch rates to those of a careful mother hen. The incubator can be powered continuously from a battery system as small as 150Wh, with reserves for bouts of cloudy weather.
Kukua is a money-making machine for the large majority of off-grid farmers who raise chickens. Artificial incubation with Kukua affords farmers independence over the hatching process, increased revenue, and greater financial stability compared to their otherwise meager and volatile chicken farming income.
Our goal is to have the Kukua incubator widely available to allow farmers to be more financially secure because they can depend upon their chicken farming as a steady income.
Kukua Labs is currently continuing testing with farmers in Tanzania, completing design for manufacturing, and building ongoing partnerships with solar and energy companies worldwide.
2019 ASME Hardware-Led Innovation Showcase
TomKat Center’s Innovation Transfer Grant