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Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech Finalists: Koolmill

Stories from the Field: Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech
Meet the Finalists: Koolmill

Pictured: Alec Anderson, Dan Zhao, Fiona Anderson, Abhishek Mishra, Seb Plowman and Penny Morton.

Milken Institute: Tell us about your team?

Alec Anderson: The Koolmill team is driven by vision and values. We are on a mission to make modern high-performance, low-power rice milling affordable and available to all millers regardless of size, gender, or location, alleviating both economic and food poverty, while growing a successful business.

Our vision is to transform a wasteful, globally significant rice industry, move it to a sustainable future, and lift millions from food and fuel poverty. Whilst the challenge is formidable, potentially the impact will be life-changing for many millions of people in developing countries. This has attracted a diverse, international team made up of experienced senior staff and innovative, driven engineers, all with a strong desire to positively impact the world and leave their own personal, innovative mark by improving how the world is fed.

What inspired you to participate in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech? In addition to competing for the $1 million grand prize, what do you hope to gain from this experience?

As a family-owned small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) with limited resources, winning a prize would transform our ability to rapidly grow our user base in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Through access to experienced mentors and the global AgriTech community, Koolmill will benefit from an improved holistic view, refining our business model to meet the needs of SSA SME rice processors. We believe that there is greater economic, social, and environmental impact from enabling all processors to compete equally on price and quality, rather than focusing on simply improving the profitability of large commercial mills. Also, utilizing the expertise of our academic and commercial partners has better equipped Koolmill to tackle the cultural and economic barriers to adopting a disruptive technology in rural communities. For example, in discussions, the World Food Programme offered suggestions as to how Koolmill can ensure the added value is shared equitably across the rice value chain.

How will your concept increase economic value to farmers in Africa?

Rice is an antiquated and wasteful $550 billion global industry feeding 3.5 billion people daily. Millions of SMEs are locked into poor post-harvest drying, storage, and processing. Annually, enough rice to feed 600 million people will not make it from paddy to plate, wasting the finite resources deployed pre-harvest. The annual triple bottom line loss is circa $127 billion.

Koolmill has pioneered a paradigm shift in rice processing: a simpler, gentle, ultra-low power, off-grid technology, taking rice processing from the Stone Age to the Digital Age, delivering more food from existing harvest with less loss, 90 percent less power, and less environmental impact.

Our novel Machinery as a Service Business Model makes our technology affordable and accessible to all, processors, and would be processors, empowering everyone to compete equally on price and quality, regardless of size, gender, or location.

Koolmill is improving how the world is fed, one grain at a time.

What sets you apart from other teams in this competition?

Penny Morton was awarded the prestigious Glasgow University GUES Medal, “The engineering graduate considered most likely to make a notable contribution to the engineering profession and to the well-being of their country.” As president of the Female Engineering Society, she led a long-term project in Malawi, working with local academics and schools to inspire and empower young women in rural communities. She completed internships in India, China, and Turkey and is an advocate for equality; her drive is engineering a better future.

Since joining Koolmill and visiting Nigeria twice, Penny discovered that “75 percent of Nigerian smallholders are female, undertake 80 percent of the workload pre-harvest, yet they only access 20 percent of the value post-harvest.” She is passionate about using her skills, experience, and Koolmill’s innovative technologies to bring about positive and sustainable change in Africa, creating long-lasting impact that will improve life outcomes in rural communities.