Wakati project selected for international final of the Global Social Venture Competition

A team of Vlerick full-time MBA students competing in the Global Social Venture Competition of Berkeley University has won the francophone regional final in Paris. Over 100 teams from across Europe, Canada and Africa originally entered in this competition which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure, and financing  to transform their ideas into businesses that will have positive real world impact. On April 10-11, the team will represent Vlerick Business School in Berkeley (US) and strive for winning the global competition.

The Wakati Project: extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables

In November 2013 Vlerick students Aled Walker, Grace Law, Patrick Charles and Sabrina Weymiens teamed up with Arne Pauwels, a young Belgian entrepreneur and founder of the Wakati project. They volunteered to write a business plan to help bring Wakati to the market. Wakati is a simple, innovative, cheap and clean technology for extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables in developing countries. By mimicking the conditions of the plants, this climate chamber creates a micro climate instead of using expensive cooling. The system only requires a fraction of the energy and materials necessary for traditional cooling systems.

Arne Pauwels explains the rationale behind his new venture: “Smallholder farmers are the foundation of the economy in many developing countries. Their success or failure means the difference between eating and not eating for over 870 million people who are food insecure around the world. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, approximately 45% of fruits and vegetables in developing countries never reach the consumer and go to waste. This is caused by a lack of protection from climate, pests and diseases. By using Wakati, post-harvest losses can be reduced by over 20 percent. It is my ultimate goal to provide an affordable alternative for every person who does not have a refrigerator.”

Opening the door to a new network

So far Arne is very pleased with the students’ work. “They all come from a different background and they all have a different nationality which is definitely an added-value to create a good business plan for my product.” He’s also very excited about the result of the students in this completion: “The Global Social Venture Competition is a unique network event where not only we can make contact with potential investors, but also win great prizes. With a bit of luck we can achieve both.”

Sabrina Weymiens says that the whole Vlerick team is extremely pleased to be recognised: “We decided to enter the Global Social Venture competition to create worldwide exposure for this project and for us it is of course a great personal experience to pitch in front of different audiences. I feel that we have fair chances for the global final. Our team has the skills to make an impressive and convincing pitch, the product is great and scientifically proven, our model is largely scalable and can make a real difference for farmers in developing countries. We still have to adjust our business plan, based on the feedback we collected from the 9 jury members in Paris and rehearse our pitch but we are confident to be ready on time!”.

As for the future, Sabrina feels that Wakati founder Arne Pauwels is definitely on the path of implementation. So far 300 prototypes of Wakati have been ordered and Arne is heading for Tanzania as soon as the first 20 have been delivered end of May. “We hope that we can continue the adventure together and that we will remain involved and supportive of the project whatever the outcome of the global final.”

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