2nd Agriculture Innovation Challenge (AIC): A Retrospective

TRYBE recently announced that it will be running a 10-week product development and entrepreneurship course called Invent4Ag starting on 4 December as part of their initiative to enable young innovators to build functional prototypes of solutions for agriculture.This course was introduced following the 2nd Agriculture Innovation Challenge, held from 1 to 3 September and organised by TRYBE and Engineers Without Borders! With that, let us take a look back on what happened during the exciting challenge and get inspired!

The challenge was designed to introduce its participants to the human centered design (HCD) process, and to enable them to apply its principles to a real life situation.  Furthermore, the whole challenge revolved around the theme of improving food security, which encompasses consistent crop quality, quantity and yields, chemical and biological safety and traceability.

The 12 participants, 9 facilitators and 3 mentors kicked off Day 1 by familiarising themselves with the challenge statement and the HCD process. The participants then took part in a mini Makerthon; where they were tasked to brainstorm ideas, as well as design and build simple paper prototypes.

Participants busy at work, developing their prototypes

Participants busy at work, developing their prototypes

The second day was nothing short of fun as this time, participants got into teams to design a more refined prototype. A research framework was also provided to participants to guide them as they conducted desk research. On top of that, participants ran interviews with market-goers, as part of the discover and empathy elements of the HCD process.

Participants were also tasked to work in teams to further solidify their initial ideas

Participants were also tasked to work in teams to further solidify their initial ideas

Finally, on Day 3, participants finalised their cardboard prototypes and business models. To end off with a bang, they were given 3 minutes to pitch their ideas to one another and in turn receive feedback to prepare them for their final pitch at the Discovery Fair held at Exchange Square.

Participants doing a test pitch in front of their fellow innovators for feedback

Participants doing a test pitch in front of their fellow innovators for feedback

Final pitch at the Discovery Fair held at Exchange Square

Final pitch at the Discovery Fair held at Exchange Square

Delving deeper into the innovations that were developed during the challenge, here is a brief description of each of the prototypes created:

1.      Mango J&J

This team seeked to solve the issue of mango wastage. Being a seasonal fruit that grows in abundance in Cambodia during certain seasons, it has often led to overproduction and even spoilage during these short months.

Seeing a need for a solution, the team proposed creating a multipurpose food processor that is capable of creating both mango juice and jam. This helps farmers add value to and preserve their produce, instead of being forced to sell mangoes at an unprofitable price to middlemen, or worse, leave their produce to rot.

 2.      Plan Pro

Developed by 2 Liger students, this tool aimed to improve the health of plants during germination by protecting them during their most vulnerable stage of growth.

Their proposed solution was a box with sensors that could measure NPK levels and moisture level in soil. The tool would then automatically water and distribute fertilizer to the plant, depending on the readings acquired. On top of that, the product would also send the information reports  to the user’s mobile device, where they can also control watering and fertilizer distribution.

3.      Chemical Filter

Following the unregulated use of pesticides and chemical substances in the agricultural sector, this innovation seeks to tackle problems relating to food safety in Cambodia.

They proposed creating a machine that could test the level of pesticides present in produce, and remove external traces of such pesticides using a mixed vinegar and water solution.

 4.      Cyclo Bachy

Fertilizing vegetable plots takes a lot of hard labour and work, especially when such processes are usually done manually.

Hence, this team proposed a low budget solution to this by implementing cyclos, which are readily available locally. The team attached a mechanised tool to the back of a cyclo that enabled an even spread of fertilizer to the crops.

In slew of the last few agriculture innovation challenges this year, the 2nd Agriculture Innovation Challenge proved to be one full of knowledge and innovation and we are simple in awe of the prototypes produced!

As TRYBE and Engineers Without Borders move forward, they hope to continue to refine their human centered design model and harness young talent to design solutions to local issues. Additionally, they might even go a step further and go beyond the topic of Agriculture for these challenges. Whatever it is, we at Geeks in Cambodia are excited for what they come up with next to benefit fellow innovators in the Kingdom!

For more information on TRYBE, visit their Facebook Page here and for information on Engineers without Borders, head down here.