Solving last mile problems: From connecting simple technologies to finding smart solutions in agriculture and beyond

Sunday October 15th, 2017 - Nabeelah Shabbir

Sergina Loncle, Communications Manager, Kopernik
Location: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
“The supply chain in Indonesia is a real challenge”

On one of Indonesia’s 18,000 islands, Adonara in East Nusa Tenggara, crops such as copra – dried coconut flesh – are sold raw and unprocessed. Copra is usually left strewn on the ground, to dry in the open air. Recent research shows that there is less spoilage when copra is placed into a solar dryer. This is a controlled environment which looks like a giant black box in the field. Inside the “K-dryer”, funded by the organisation Polish Aid, a solar panel powers exhaust fumes which dries the crop out, away from the weather and any other contamination.

This may seem an unsurprising discovery – the power of an innovative machine over centuries-old farming practises. However, this is precisely the vision behind Kopernik, a company based in Bali which devised this container in the summer of 2016. Nearly half of Indonesia’s population – a whopping 250 million people – live in rural areas. Named after Nicolas Copernicus, the 15th century astronomer who discovered the Earth moves around the Sun, Kopernik goes out on a limb for its experimental projects, which are run on a small-scale.

“With the solar dryer, we aim to help farmers in eastern Indonesia increase the value of their products,” explains Sergina Loncle, communications manager, who has studied and worked in women’s empowerment, gender and disability and community-based projects. In another current pitch for a project, the team is planning to help farmers extract honey from the forests in an efficient way, using a filter. “Sometimes, success isn’t always guaranteed – but that’s the nature of experimentation.” Agriculture is a key growth factor in the country’s economy – comprising 15% of GDP in 2014.

3 Drying copra Kopernik

Kopernik was launched by a couple who met when they were UN employees in Jakarta in 2010. Toshi Nakamura, CEO, and Ewa Wojkowska , COO, had relocated to New York when they devised the concept behind their philanthropic and business project, funded by donors. “The challenge is people’s need to access electricity, water and clean energy – especially in the last mile,” says Loncle. “The founders saw that many people living in poverty could not access these basic needs.” Some of these solutions in the last mile are as simple as developing cashew openers. These are, very literally, the toughest nut to crack for workers in Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world.

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