It all started back in August this year at the SEA Makerthon Phnom Penh event. Vandy, Vatey and Seyha got together to think about ways to help crops last longer.
They realised that farmers were losing valuable income year after year because of the inadequate storage capacity when transporting crops to the fresh market.
The solution, called “Eco Fresh Box” is novel, simple and straight-forward, delivering exactly what its name suggests.
It’s “Eco” because the product is made up entirely from environmentally sustainable materials like bamboo and burlap. Functionally, these materials help to keep the crops cool without the use of electricity. In fact, this solution uses water as its only coolant.
Moving on, the solution is “Fresh” because it helps to keep the products fresh on the way to the market.
And finally, as straight-forward as names come, it’s a “box” because the product is in a shape of a box that farmers can easily transport to the market.
Since the SEA Makerthon, the team has continued to work on the project and is now part of the EPIC incubator programme – the Kingdom’s first programme of its kind.
Kicking off our collaboration series with EPIC, we sat down with the team to find out more about their solution and their ambitions in being part of the incubator programme.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language
How were you inspired to come up with the Eco Fresh Box?
Vandy (Van): We were trying to find a solution to store vegetables and we looked at a few materials. Eventually, we decided on bamboo because Vatey here works with bamboo and we realised that it’s a material that is strong enough, is available in Cambodia and is environmentally friendly. As for the burlap, it’s because my dad uses the material a lot and I realised that when the burlap is wet, it stays wet for a very long time and is actually cooling for the product it’s carrying.
Can you tell us more about how the Eco Fresh Box system works?
Seyha(S): First of all, we throw the burlap in water and then use the wet burlap to wrap a very thick bamboo box. Then we put the vegetables inside. That’s really it.
We realised this could work because burlap would stay wet for 3 to 4 days and when the air goes in, it works as a sort of cold vapour that keeps the temperature inside the box to around 20 degrees celcius.
How do you intend to distribute the product to the farmers?
Vatey(Vat): We intend to create a community event to generate community sales so that we can demonstrate to the farmers how the product works. From there, hopefully the farmers will be willing to adopt the idea as they realise it’s something that’s effective.
Van: Also, I think the community event will help increase the word of mouth recommendations from one farmer to another. Typically, once a few of the modern farmers adopt the product, the others usually follow suit as well.
Lets talk more about the EPIC programme. How has your experience been in EPIC so far?
Van: Its been great for me because the sessions are very practical and aren’t just lectures. They tell you about what is happening in the real world, what you should do and what you should not do. One thing that I have learnt is human centered design – to design solutions with the customers and users in mind.
Vat: For me, I’ve learnt more about teamwork and working creatively to come up with solutions.
S: I’ve learnt more about the customer and how to bring the product to the customer. This means having more focus on the needs of the customer and being aware of how the product we create is able to meet those needs.
What impact do you hope your product will have on Cambodia?
Van: I hope that the product will first and foremost be beneficial to the farmers. Hopefully, this product will help them better store their crops and in turn, have the ability to sell most if not all of it. By our estimates, farmers will be able to save up to 4 million riel a year if they use this method. From there, we hope that they can use the money to support their children’s education and buy any other materials they might need.
In terms of the bigger picture, if the demand grows, we hope that more bamboo will also be grown. And that will actually be great for Cambodia too because we’ve researched and found out that bamboo is 30% more effective at transforming carbon dioxide to oxygen as compared to other common plants.
Finally, if there can be a burlap factory setup in Cambodia, that will be great as well because it’ll be easier for us to get the material and it’ll create more jobs for Cambodians.
Well there you have it, our first interview with the participants of the EPIC Programme – Eco Fresh Box. Be sure to check out their Facebook Page if you want to be up to date with their progress. If you’re interested in contributing to the project, you can contact the team there as well!
Stay locked to Geeks in Cambodia tomorrow as we catch up with yet another participant in the EPIC programme. Keeping to the agricultural theme, tomorrow’s team is creating Cambodia’s first ever online agricultural magazine.