Sunday, January 11, 2015

We're here!

Afehyia paaa!
We’ve finally here on our long awaited trip to Ghana. After an eventful journey consisting of:

         ·    Five flight delays
         ·    One changed flight
         ·    One “Ice Storm”
         ·    500 pounds of checked luggage
         ·    Two lost bags
         ·    Seven TSA checked bag notices
         ·    Two turbulent flights
         ·    One turbulent car ride
         ·    One million pot holes
         ·    And 24 hours later

      we’ve made it to KNUST, just outside of Kumasi. We began work right away on Monday morning, bright and early, leaving around 9:30 am. Maybe that wasn’t so bright and early, but since then we’ve been up and running by 7:00 am. And we’ve done a lot of work too. We’ve assembled three beautifully functioning graters complete with new coats of paint. With these machines we’ve been able to grate and press over 100lbs of cassava fresh from the market. And when I say fresh, I mean fresh. Farmed and sold in the same morning.


This Thursday, we brought two of these new machines to PKK to replace previously functional graters. Two of our customers and invaluable codesigners, Auntie Akosua and Auntie Ama, were ecstatic to begin grating cassava again. Auntie Akosua’s previous grater became dysfunctional a few months ago and Auntie Ama’s grater shocked her three days ago (though it’s not clear what caused this). As soon as Auntie Ama’s new grater was running she grated an entire bowl of cassava in about 10 minutes.

We’ve also greatly improved our ratchet strap press with a new ratchet that is larger than life. The ratchet strap press uses a ratchet to squeeze two wooden boards together with a bag of cassava sandwiched in between. The press was tested out last semester, but after some work here in Ghana, we’ve finally proven it a plausible design. On top of this we’ve built a new double lead screw design with lead screws and a board that rotate out of the users way to prevent them from being placed on the ground.


We’ve received a lot of help with the new press designs from Aunite Ama and Auntie Akosua. Both still have their flaws, but we’re one step closer to the end goal. For example, releasing the ratchet strap press makes a noise like a small gunshot. Auntie Akosua said the sound alone could kill a person…. We’ll need to look into this further.


 In the coming week, we’re hoping to build a brand new press and ideally assemble a few more graters. We’re running a tight schedule too. A new press and grater will need to be sold this Thursday. Cross your fingers that the power stays on for us!


Wish us luck and check back later for our next post!
Cheers,
Kari 


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Final Day

And on the 11th day, the ADE Ghana team rested. We spent the first half of the day at the beach, eating and goofing around. From there we went to the market and put our negotiation skills to the test. Satisfied with our findings, we returned to the IDE offices and kicked back, and that night we made curry and ate our last meal together as we planned our journeys to the airport.

With that our trip drew to a close. Since arriving 11 days ago, we sold a grater of the new design, refurbished one already deployed, expanded our contact book of potential buyers, and co-designed press interaction with our users. We also thoroughly tested and validated the name of the grater, defined more clearly the grater’s role in chop bars, and investigated the possibility of mobile money payments and franchise modeling.

Looking ahead, we really need to finish deploying the grater venture, so that we can focus on the press more. To do so, the next team must focus more on sourcing, quality control, and larger scale manufacture and distribution. Regarding the press, we gained a lot of information that will be applied to the next iteration of the press, so that we’ll definitely have one for Auntie Akosua next trip.
Jianhan enjoying the beach

The team (minus Ben)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Off to the Villages Once More

Team ready to deliver grater to eagerly awaiting owners
It’s time for our second and final village trip. Early in the morning we peeled some (now rotting) cassava and fed it into the two finished graters. Fortunately both graters performed as expected, rendering them ready to ship. We had our last breakfast at the guest house and set off. Our first stop was the village in Odumase to deliver our first new grater to Samuel and company. We were able to meet more of the gari processors as we delivered and demonstrated the machine. The meeting was short, since we needed to be in PKK soon afterward, so we exchanged contact information, took pictures, and said goodbye until January.

Ben and Auntie Akosua lifting a 60 lb rock off of fermenting cassava
When we arrived at PKK, we found Auntie Akosua and the rest of her family preparing mounds of cassava in anticipation of her new and improved grater. She approved of the changes we made and soon began grating as we all waited for Tsikata and his wife, a couple in a neighboring village who wanted a machine after seeing Auntie Akosua’s. Since we could only get one new machine working, we were planning to explain that they were our top priority for next time and would receive one no later than January. Though after meeting them, we conversed and found that they had no access to electricity currently, and would be looking to move into a village on the grid soon. Consequently we exchanged contact information in hopes that they would become future grater owners. As the team waited for Irene and Anna to return from repairing Auntie Ama’s grater, Auntie Akosuadispleased with our distinct lack of a press this time aroundordered Ben to lift the pressing rocks with her, so that he remembers to “come quickly” with her press next time.

When the team regrouped, it was time to say all our goodbyes: First to the wonderful people of PKK, then to our fantastic partners Joe and Jerry, and finally to the whole Ashanti Region as we made our way to Accra in the evening. Exhausted by the rush of the past week, many of us slept as bus traversed across Ghana, finally reaching the IDE offices in Accra as night approached.
Glamour shots of our graters before delivery
Many gather for the new grater demonstration in Odumase
Auntie Akosua studying the performance of her refurbished grater

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Last Minute Woes

Ben and Anna discussing how to fix the grater
Having spread out all our tools and materials in the backyard of the guest house, we hoped that today everything would come together, but we ran into a big problem: there wasn’t enough interaction between the head and the shaft, which caused the new graters to rattle significantly. After discovering the problem in the morning, we spent the rest of the day trying to devise a fix with whatever we had available. As the hours went by, hopes were fading, but thankfully we found a working combination of parts that we could use for a non-chattering machine. By the end of the night, we had the sealant drying and the grater ready to go. Contrary to its successor, Auntie Akosua’s grater gave us no problem as we finished its repairs. Before leaving for the follow-up village trip, we will grate some cassava to break in the two machines.

Jianhan filing down the head
Unexpected design consideration: After applying shea butter to lubricate the chute, dozens of ants swarmed to investigate, yet a few hours later they left without a trace. 
We created a makeshift yet effective grater head level and used it to determine where the head needed more weight.

Race to the Finish

It’s Friday, a.k.a. the last day the ITTU workshop is open before we return to the villages. The whole team has been running around getting last minute repairs and fabrication done before testing. The new graters are coming together, but there is still a lot to be finished. Ideally we’d like to spend tomorrow grating so that we are confident about the new design before shipping it. Auntie Akosua’s repairs are also underway and will likely be ready to grate tomorrow as well.

Also, last night we met with George Obeng, a KNUST Director with whom we’ve been working, and informed him of growing demand for the graters as well as its well testing new name. George seemed pleased with the work done and looked forward to the expansion of production. 
Irene working on grater assembly.
Graters leaving the workshop 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shop Time

Sorry I’ve been quite for so long. The last three days have been one long continuation of discussion, fabrication, and data gathering. Over the nights we've been debriefing from our village trip. To recap, we did the following:
  • Officially sold one grater to Samuel and gained knowledge of more potential customers
  • Took Auntie Akosua’s grater for servicing
  • Co-designed on a press with our three grater owners
List of tasks for the week at ITTU
Samuel’s grater purchase meant it was now imperative that we have a working version of the new design. On top of that, Auntie Akosua advertised the grater to 2 or 3 more prospective customers, so we’d like to have at least one extra machine to potentially sell. With the constant help of the whole team, Irene and I have been working day in and out at ITTU to complete the new machines. We took a brief break on Tuesday to check out a metal workshop called Obeng Engineering in Suame Magazine with Ben. There we met Nana, the very busy supervisor of the plant, who gave us a tour of the extensive facilities. They had many interesting capabilities that we will consider as we plan to scale up. Otherwise the tech team has remained in the shop.

Business team learns how local fufu producers use their grater
On the other hand, the business team has been all over Kumasi testing assumptions about the market segmentation and business model. Particularly, Julian, Anna, and Jianhan have been visiting chop bars (high volume restaurants) to get an idea about the business and the need for a grater. They have also been investigating the usage of mobile money payments in Ghana and banking process for starting small businesses. There have been some promising leads for opening the market to chop bars. However, the team decided to wait on supplying a grater to a chop bar until we are more confident about the longevity of the design (especially since the grater is untested at this point).

The task of refurbishing Auntie Akosua’s grater also occupied the tech team’s time. When inspecting the machine on Monday, we noticed that her motor sounded worn out, and after further assessment, we decided to modify the whole grater. The changes we made were to stiffen the grater and balanced the head.

The press co-design gave us a wealth of information for the next iteration of the press and also a clearer vision of the women’s values. Early in the week we were hoping to deploy presses during this trip, but the grater quickly has become a fulltime commitment. We plan to take what we’ve got back to Needham and return in January with a press to deploy (possibly earlier if we send the materials to Asante). But for now, we have to get these graters working.
Meeting at Obeng Engineering to introduce the grater 
Julian grinding the chute plunger down to size

Monday, May 26, 2014

Off to the Villages (Part 2)

Although Auntie Akosua, our other PKK grater owner, couldn’t come to the co-design session yesterday, she arrived bright and early to see the highly anticipated press. We explained the interaction to her as Auntie Ama returned, and then we opened both presses. As soon as Auntie Ama touched the now dry cassava, she danced and remarked on how dry it was. Auntie Akosua was also impressed with the results, and both women thought the single lead screw press outperformed the other.
The team broke into groups and inspected each of the deployed machines for repairs. At this time we were able to ask for opinions on direct seller business model, branding, and payment methods.  Auntie Akosua seemed very receptive to becoming a direct seller and even informed us of other women in the area interested in buying graters. After asking final questions, collecting data, and inspecting graters, the team left PKK for Adumkrum. Here we showed graters and presses to Auntie Howa, our first grater owner. This visit shortly became a village affair as several men and women gathered and discussed the merits of each machine. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long, but we learned more about the community dynamics during co-design and the influences of peers on the decisions of our customers.
Before returning to campus in Kumasi, we stopped by Odumase again to give a brief demonstration now that the power had returned. The women present quickly became comfortable with using the grater and appeared satisfied with the cassava, while we confirmed a return trip on Sunday to deliver their own grater. Finally we headed home, tired but satisfied with the amount of knowledge and data gained that would shape the course of action over the next week.
Auntie Akosua presses a bag of cassava with the single lead screw press.
Auntie Howa! Although under the weather, she’s happy to see the machines we've brought.
Irene and Anna demonstrating the 2 lead screw press for Auntie Howa.