We chat to the owners of Offgrid Innovations about winning the 2018 Inventors Garage competition for the their invention, the iHarvey®
What is iHarvey®?
iHarvey® is an on-demand basic electricity generator, safe and silent, and designed to operate unattended indoors to provide off grid households with useable electricity for lighting and charging of any USB chargeable devices. Using the Seebeck Effect to convert waste heat directly into useable electricity, the iHarvey® is based off the idea of a paraffin lamp, and thus uses paraffin as a power source. 1 litre of paraffin provides 29 hours of operation, with 1 hour using only 35ml.
What impact will your product have?
The product was originally designed to provide charging power and lights for students in rural areas. Using the basic idea of a paraffin lamp as a springboard, we wanted to introduce a real lighting solution that uses technology people are already comfortable with. Once the iHarvey® was created and tested, we realised it had far more potential than just for student use. The reach of mobile smart technology (ie: tablets and cellphones) is growing every day – but there are real problems all South Africans (and many African countries) are facing; unstable, unreliable power providers and energy poverty come together to create a country with untapped potential that cannot be realised until a constant supply of electricity is provided. The lighting systems in place in these rural areas are generally unsafe; shack fires and the death toll associated are a real, constant issue for hundreds of people. The iHarvey® is safe for indoor use, with incredibly low soot and zero carbon monoxide emissions. It has a wide base that keeps it secure and stable as well a protection shroud that avoids touch burns. It providing constant light that is cleaner to produce than solar, and provides a charging station for any USB chargeable device. Clean, safe charging and constant light – that’s what the iHarvey® does.
Has your participation in the SA Innovation Summit Inventors Garage Competition had any impact in your business?
Yes, absolutely. We have received trade inquiries through the summit and through the publication in Popular Mechanics magazine.
You won the 2018 Inventors Garage Competition, tell us about your prize and what this means to you?
It was such an honor to win the Inventors Garage Competition as I have been a regular reader of Popular Mechanics since I was a kid and being a part of this legend is exciting.
Gaining serious exposure for a project we believe in and knowing that the passion is shared for an innovative, uplifting product is an incredible feeling. The prize of R10 000 covered our expenses to exhibit at the Summit which was a great bonus.
What made you want to participate in the SA Innovation Summit?
As with any new idea or product, the first thing you need is for others to see it in action. We wanted to exhibit the iHarvey® to a group of people who would see past the shroud and understand not only how innovative the product is, but the potential it has to change lives. It was a space for sharing proudly South African designs with people who are passionate about integrating technology, convenience, and real problem-solving, and it was a privilege to be a part of.
What challenges were you faced with while building your product?
Designing a product that could easily integrate into a home environment and provide an appliance for everyday use. Financing a product like this proved to be quite difficult. Starting up the organisation and gaining access to the technology and materials we needed took time and money, something we’re sure many inventors can relate to. Marketing is very necessary, but challenging; it’s a unique product with wide appeal and numerous facets of deployment, so trying to nail down the target audience and relevant communications with a smooth, consistent tone was hard! And lastly, finding a distribution partner, while crucial, is daunting. We ran into many dead-ends along the way.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs or those looking to start their own business?
They always said that “seeing is believing”, and the iHarvey® is testament to that. It’s never as good as seeing it in real life – so make sure people see your product! Believe in your idea and don’t let time sway your dream. Find any avenue you can, and find your audience – they’re out there. Be stubborn and find them! The right people will make themselves known along the way, and you’ll get to a place where you’re winning first prize in the Inventor’s Garage Competition soon enough.