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5 September, 2014 - 21:02 By News Desk

Biomass cooking tech hits Europe after Africa success


Biomass cooking technology being used as a life saving aid in poverty-stricken areas of Africa will be targeted at an entirely different market – outdoor adventurers in the UK and Europe – if a crowdfunding bid proves successful.

The off-grid smoke-free stove is being pioneered by Judith and Ruben Walker  – sibling founders of Hertfordshire startup African Clean Energy (ACE).

They are bidding to raise €50,000 on Kickstarter and have already pushed towards the €4k mark from 37 backers.

The British family engineered the technology to offer a sustainable way of cooking for the sub Saharan continent, without the health risks posed by carbon inhalation – a problem which kills four million people a year (a person every eight seconds) in the region where cooking on an open flame is everyday life.

The Walkers say that the first generation ACE 1 stove has been a huge success across Africa and the company wants to launch it into UK and European markets as a cooking tool for festivals, camping and barbecues.

The device has roots grounded not only in sustainable cooking technology – generating electricity from heat energy which can power a lamp or charge a mobile phone – but also was contrived to solve the problems of carbon poisoning, which claims lives widely throughout Africa.

In addition to a life-or-death health solution, the biomass cookstove presents a solution for the problems posed by open stove cooking for the environment; a year of cooking on an open fire is the equivalent of driving a large SUV vehicle. When considering the scale of open fire cooking in the third world, this problem becomes very real.

Two thirds of sub-Saharan Africa also has no modern energy, so any new cooking technology intending to address the problems of the region is required to function independently and sustainably, in a cheap and efficient manner with safety at the forefront of the design. 

Many poor families in the region spend up to 25 per cent of their income purely on fuel, with women and children bearing the brunt of sourcing the fuel – a process that often takes up to three hours of their day.

Judith and Ruben Walker saw an opportunity to develop a stove which would create an accessible and clean solution for these problems by burning biomass. Anything from sticks and cow dung to specially designed biomass pellets would be considered a compatible fuel source and the heat would be strong and effective. Not only this, the heat energy would also convert the cookstove itself into a source of electrical power.

Judith Walker said: “Initially, we put all of our time and effort into working out exactly how we could develop this technology which would really apply to everyday use for people in sub Saharan Africa. 

“We didn’t want to come up with a short term fix; we wanted to create something that would trigger change for these people and make an honest difference to help them break the cycle of poverty. We’re proud to have found an outcome that means we aren’t asking people to change their own culture or lifestyle, just creating an option that removes the damage being caused now.

“What we have subsequently realised is that we have actually got some great technology here which doesn’t just have to be limited to those in poverty in Africa. It can work over here in the UK; there’s world-wide appeal for a cool, sleek, eco-cooking gadget which means you don’t have to spend the summer coughing over a smoky barbecue. 

“You can even plug in your phone charger or lamp at the same time! It’s ideal for camping, festivals or even just as a spare cooking appliance to keep around the house. We feel that there’s definitely a huge potential to bring it back to the UK  and let the British market enjoy it! 

“We just hope we can get some great investors on board, as that is what will make or break this new venture and give us a chance to really get this off the ground.”

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