Featured Front Page Posts

Feeling the Entrepreneurship Spirit in Uganda

Posted Sunday 8 May 2022 by Urs Riggenbach.

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Uganda and Kenya to see firsthand the amazing impacts of Lytefire with some of the 250+ entrepreneurs we have empowered in the last 12 months.

Visiting the training site in Uganda

As you know we have not only developed the Lytefire solar tech but also the entrepreneur-trainings to train women and youths to run their own solar businesses - with no prior experience.

The big mission we have taken on at Solar Fire, has made the last years of business development really hard for us. Awareness of solar concentration is still low vis-à-vis photovoltaics, and little focus is on solving the energy problems of the millions of entrepreneurs in low-income regions. With a truly decentralized energy source we also don’t fit the old centralized models that brought the climate and poverty crisis in the first place. But one beautiful result of our work is that we are sharing our experience with entrepreneurship and are able to provide all the key ingredients to create solar bakeries: From the Lytefire Oven to the baking skills, the entrepreneurship skills and the technical skills to maintain a Lytefire with local materials, something that fundamentally sets us apart.

Just like Solar Fire faces many challenges in scaling up, there are so many barriers our solar entrepreneurs need to overcome on a daily basis. But the basis of doing business is selling your product. To do that, yes you need a product, but you also need to have the courage to go out there and sell it. And if nobody buys, you don’t succeed.

As CEO of Solar Fire since a few months, my work is very demanding, being involved with both the delivery and acquisiton sides, keeping a bird’s eye perspective and going down to the nitty-gritty of day-to-day activities on a constant basis. We had just reached a milestone on the fundraising side and at the same time a major training program was coming to a close: It was time to jump on the opportunity to visit the projects, the entrepreneurs and see old and new team members, with 6 of them whom I would meet for the first time in real life!

So during my trip, I was able to visit one of the last training courses for a project we are delivering to our client Plan International in Tororo, Uganda.

It was a hot, sunny day, and after our bakery trainer Allan finished his first segment on making muffins (known as Queen Cakes in Uganda), the muffins were in the solar oven and our entrepreneurship trainers Callum and Hanna continued on the bookkeeping part of the training.

I’ve taken such workshops before and my body immediately reacted with a wave of tiredness as my mind wandered to the 30 other things demanding my attention at Solar Fire.

The typing noise of calculators that were handed out brought me back just 10 minutes into the session, and I noticed the strong engagement of the group. Callum asked, “Why is there more money in the account than cookies were sold?”. - A participant: “Shouldn’t we have cookies left?”- Another: “No, all cookies were sold by Sunday”. Callum: “So, clearly someone sold cookies between last Friday, brought the money into the account but did not subtract it from the inventory nor add it to the bookkeeping. You see, just now, a day after it happened it is hard to reconstruct what happens. That’s why the bookkeeping needs to be done right way. OK. Let it be a lesson and reminder for us. Let’s go into this”. …and they proceeded to figure out exactly who made the sales, and updated the accounting based on this, if you ask me, very positive problem.

Even what I would consider the most “dry” and theoretical part of the training was made engaging through the entrepreneurial reality we are creating in the short time our trainers are on-site. And it continued: As the muffins came out of the oven, the instructions were very clear: “No snacking”. I had to withstand my urge to just grab a delicious looking muffin: I asked about the rule and it is something they developed through the trainings: If you make it clear that every muffin snacked is a muffin not sold and a direct loss for the bakery, people’s business mindset is honed and put in place from the beginning.

Now we were inside a large compound in a hall where the training was conducted, outside on the main road construction works were happening. I would say a 10 minute walk from the construction site. Yet suddenly a man enters the building and asks if he can buy some Queen Cakes. A sale happened and I was really impressed: The word of mouth is really working, and the solar bakery is quickly worth a visit just because of it’s innovative aspects, and at the end of this day, all queen cakes were sold again, to few additional clients that the participants had called and animated.

The participants all made sales, brought in cash through their work and had a real entrepreneurial success just after one week when I arrived, and at the end of the second week, our trainers left them with a profit in their account and an inventory of starter-ingredients for them to efficiently continue running their bakery. This entrepreneurship-creation process was really impressive to experience firsthand. It was extremely motivating to see how with Lytefire we can create real entrepreneurship opportunities wherever we go.

The experience was confirmed by the various other solar entrepreneurs I got to meet on my trip, and from some of them, you will soon hear more!

Stay tuned.

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Smart Up Factory is the only bakery in Nebbi!

Posted Monday 7 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

After an energetic 3 weeks training course with the inspirational students in Nebbi, Uganda, it has been an incredibly successful experience! Nebbi’s Smart Up Hub enrolls 40 students at a time, so 15 students were carefully selected for the first ever solar bakery training in the district. We felt very fortunate to have such a motivated and focused group to train as every student was super eager to get involved with all aspects of the training!

Nebbi experiences many power cuts throughout the day which can cause great difficulty for many restaurants in the area that rely on electricity. Using the Lytefire solar oven meant when the team baked they did not need to worry about this occurring issue and as long as the sun was shining they could carry on baking all day without any interruptions.

The majority of local shopkeepers and hotels in the area heavily relied on electricity, only few with backup generators. So the only other methods they had to rely on for cooking were charcoal, which was accessible but around 60kg for 35,000UGX (12 EUROS). Charcoal was used daily in Nebbi and 60kg of charcoal would only last a week of cooking. That is a LOT of money and it would mean street vendors would barely make a profit from the products they sold and produced.

"Charcoal, which was accessible but around 60kg for 35,000UGX (12 EUROS)"

During week 1 the trainers introduced the expectations of what the training would involve and how the Lytefire would influence them greatly within the baking market here in Nebbi town.
In the first week of training the students were already selling solar buns, cupcakes and cookies without any influence from the mission trainers!
One of the challenges during the first week was that Nebbi being such a small rural town, ingredients were hard to find so they had to travel across the border of Congo and buy their equipment.

We soon realized that Smart Up hub had a very huge advantage in town being the ONLY bakery in Nebbi! Through market research, the students recognized that all local shopkeepers that sold baked goods like bread, cakes and cookies were all transported from Aura or Kampala! This was a disadvantage for shopkeepers as they had to consider transport costs and wholesale prices. From the local market research the students had already made connections with shopkeepers and were ready for business to supply these local shops with their solar baked goods using the Lytefire solar oven!

"We soon realized that Smart Up hub had a very huge advantage in town being the ONLY bakery in Nebbi!"

During week 2 of training the students learnt how to market their bakery by creating a bakery name as a team, naming themselves ‘Smart up Solar Bakery’ and designing a logo, flyer and business card to attract customers and create brand awareness.
In a group discussion we spoke about the products the bakery wanted to produce, they explained that mandazi was very popular and that they were deep fried in oil. So as a group they decided they wanted to recreate a healthier version using the Lytefire solar oven! Our baker trainer, Hashimu, produced an oven baked mandazi recipe with the bakery team that the students experimented with. We can proudly say using the Lytefire 5 solar oven that these were the very first ever solar baked Mandazi in the world! (You can check out our solar baked mandazi reel on IG)

The temperature was perfect for baking with solar, averaging at 35°C every day! The bakery team wanted to learn how to make bread loaves as they had lots of interest from the surrounding community and shopkeepers as this was what most shops sold the most of out of baked goods. When the team placed the bread loaves in the oven they soon realized the temperature was too high so the bread didn’t rise. This was one unfortunate experience that they learnt from so the second time round, when they made the recipe again the oven was kept at a stable temperature with 2 students supervising the Lytefire oven consistently so the bread rose beautifully!

During week 3 of the training the students had full autonomy with baking, selling and marketing their products!
They understood the concept of how to run a bakery when they were baking with Hasheem as they were understanding the costing and pricing of their products which encouraged students to produce high quality goods that were also affordable for the local community.
Throughout the training the students were competent in producing sales and there were many orders from locals, for the solar baked mandazi, bread buns and occasion cakes.

Our ‘Solar demo day’ took place on Thursday in conjunction with the graduation of students here at Nebbi’s Smart Up hub. Amongst the students’ family and friends, Plan International officials attended along with politicians and the Nebbi district Mayor and district councilors were all present! They presented certificates to the newly established solar bakery team and celebrated by cutting the graduation cake they ordered from the Smart Up Solar Bakery and sharing the cake with the audience! There was such a wonderful turnout with the bakery team selling out of cookies, bread and cupcakes! It was a huge success and the awareness of the bakery is now well known amongst the local community

The team provided attendees with their newly creative business cards and flyers whilst showcasing their marketing skills.
The demonstration of the Lytefire 5 impressed the locals as they were used to charcoal being sold in immense quantities on the street. This gave the bakery such a great advantage to showcase the solar oven and promote its direct solar energy! Westnile TV covered the day and it was broadcast on live TV in Uganda! You can view this video on Youtube which is linked in a previous article if you would like to check out the success of Nebbi’s ‘Solar Demo Day’!

Check out our journey with the projects we are collaborating with for Plan Internationals Smart Up Factories on our social media channels!!

IG: @lytefire_solar

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lytefire.solar/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/38140646


Followup visit in the Philippines: 8 months later

Posted Monday 27 April 2020 by Eva Wissenz.

We recently revisited our partners USTP (The University of Science and Technology of the Southern Philippines) and CarbonCycle in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.

Nearly a year has passed since Lorin was last in the Philippines working with CarbonCycle to power their ‘waste to riches’ business model with Lytefire, assisted by ‘on the job’ trainee students from the Faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Together, we are still seeking R&D funding from DOST and other Filipino government initiatives.

Since then, the mechanical engineering students have made a few modifications to the cashew roaster we Installed a Lytefire5 Multi at a facility owned by the women’s group BAPPCO (Best Agri Products Processing Cooperative).

The roasting drum now rotates automatically thanks to the installation of a 150W solar panel on top of the oven.

The students also created a new end-loading and unloading door for the cashews, actuated by reversing the direction of spin of the roasting drum.

Lorin, as well as Dale from CarbonCycle met with Bronson Mabulay, the Director of Innovation and Technology Solutions and Dr. Ambrosio Cultura, who last year was Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation the but is now President of the University. They brought with them the architect in charge of the new TechnoPark that is being built as a hub to promote the commercialisation of products developed by USTP students as they progress with their studies.

It was generally agreed that there would be some space saved for solar concentrators on the grounds and rooftops of the new TechnoPark. :)


We’re coming to your doorstep !

Posted lundi 30 mars 2020 by Eva Wissenz.

Last Christmas, as an act of faith in people’s empowerment and in our solution to play a significant role in climate change crisis resolution, we have released in open source and for free the construction manual of one of our solar concentrator.

Since then, the successful GoSol’s prototypes became Lytefire products that you can now pre-order through our on-going campaign. So, basically, you could have one in your backyard !!

We have decided to run this campaign with multiple goals because so many populations need what we have to offer ! Poor bakers in West Africa, Smart Up Factory project in Uganda with Plan International, middle class Europeans willing to go off grid to power their ecological bakery or offer a true sustainable option to a well-being activity with a carbon neutral solar sauna, you name it ! You can support one of these sub-campaigns and/or pre-order your unit (the more pre-orders, the more investors will be likely to identify that we are a powerful solution to mitigate climate change crisis).

On top of the solar concentrators, our expertise is in education. We have created since 2018 a powerful training to help users to become successful solar entrepreneurs in vulnerable region. This training was implemented first with the NGO Plan International in Uganda (check full project here).

Now the Covid-19 is harming us as it’s harming many social and impact enterprises so we came up with 2 solutions :
1) Our construction manual is now priced on a sliding scale (it’s up to you !)
2) Since we probably wont be able to travel in a while, we are crowdfunding to create on-line educational material because yes, nothing can’t stop us and if we can’t travel to train people, we’ll come right to your doorstep then !!

Please share the message and support us !!https://lytefire.com/stream


Building in Burkina Faso with Remar

Posted Thursday 27 February 2020 by Lorin Symington.

We launched a new project with Remar International in Burkina Faso to empower women entrepreneurs. As always we fabricated the solar units locally, in cooperation with local metalworkers. Our chief builder Lorin was in Burkina for 2 months to facilitate the first phase of this project.

I first visited West Africa in 2007 when I spent 6 months in Mali. During my research at the time, Burkina Faso jumped out at me as a place that was in desperate need of Lytefire technology. And now, finally I get to bring our solar concentrators to Burkina Faso!

Lorin and the Remar apprentices measuring and marking.

The country of people of integrity
That’s what Burkina Faso the means and it was named like that by President Thomas Sankara, in 1984, in his courageous attempt to free the country from French colonialism. It is a landlocked country of 20 million people, devoid of any petroleum wealth and with few other resources. Burkina Faso is ranked 182nd out of 189 on the Human Development Index, which is to say that it is one of the least developed countries on the planet. There’s a 9 months long dry season and an incredible amount of dust. It is “winter” now, but the temperature hits nearly 40°C every day and during my first month I didn’t see a cloud. If ever there was a country that could profit from direct access to solar energy, it’s this one.

People in the capital city Ouagadougou (pronounced wah-gah-doo-goo) are friendly and often dressed in brightly coloured traditional fabrics. There are bananas and avocados for sale on the side of the road, and strangely enough, many apples, strawberries and grapes, the origins of which are still a mystery to me. The country is an ex French colony, and one of the many ways that the colonial legacy lives on is in the daily consumption of bread.

GoSol has been contracted to build a Lytefire 5 baking oven for Remar International, a Spanish NGO that has been working in Burkina Faso for over 20 years. They’re planning a bakery training centre at their compound in the Nioko 2 neighbourhood and their intention is to empower a group of women to earn a more consistent living.

Bako, head welder at the Remar garage, learning to calibrate mirrors.

Remar, our new partner
Working with the Remar workshop crew is fun and challenging. On the one hand, Bako, their main welder who they have supported since he was a boy, is well experienced and a real stand up guy. It’s great to see the structure Remar has put in place to provide a safe learning and growth experience for these youngsters. His spirit is one of Hakuna Matata, to borrow a phrase from our Swahili sisters and brothers. He’s always smiling and eager to learn. On the other hand, he has a handful of apprentices who are… a handful. One is nicknamed the ‘minister of losing stuff’, another is the minister of breaking stuff, another is the minister of confusion… you get the idea! No build is complete without a few tools burning out and some unexpected delays, but with a little luck and perseverance we’re making it work and in the end everything went just fine.

The team, proud to see it all starting to come together.

I’ve never had a more challenging time finding the materials to build Lytefire than in Burkina. For the first three days we heard ‘impossible’ many times when it came to finding sheets of stainless steel. I now know two shops that sell them. Likewise for fiberglass or mineral wool insulation, though eventually we managed to find the one place that sells it. I estimate that it took me 12+ hours of hunting to find fiberglass mat (which we use to protect and hold in place the window on the oven). 2 or 3 mm mirrors were simply impossible to find and we were eventually forced to get those mirrors from neighbouring Ghana where, it turns out, they are cheaper than just about anywhere else I have ever bought them. I bought enough for 5 Lytefires because I have a good feeling about the future of Lytefire in Burkina Faso.

On the hunt in the Ouaga Steel Market.

The Lytefire is now installed at Remar’s training center for women so stay tuned for the next updates from this project. On a side note, Lorin met some very interesting entrepreneurs while he was in Burkina Faso and we are starting a small crowdfunder for them to equipt and train them with Lytefire. Please have a look here: https://lytefire.com/adama-and-issaka?var_mode=recalcul


Happy New Year 2020 !

Posted vendredi 17 janvier 2020 by Eva Wissenz.

Dear Friends, Clients, Partners, Followers and Supporters,

We wish to see more peace and more justice everywhere. We wish that change makers do become more and more and more visible. We wish for more coherence and ethics in all fields. For ourselves, we wish to scale up and continue our impactful work in a sustainable way.

Watch our impact with "7 Sustainable Development Goals made real for Eva Nangira, a young solar entrepreneur in Uganda" :


Our Gift to the World:
The Lytefire Construction Guide Available Now!

Posted Tuesday 24 December 2019 by Urs Riggenbach.

Today we release the Lytefire 4 Construction Guide to help solve the climate change crisis. It is immediately available for free on the Lytefire.com Website.

Available for download now on www.lytefire.com

After years behind the screen, in the field, working with entrepreneurs to develop solar technology that brings value to people and impact to the planet, we are really happy and grateful we can share this gift with you.

We invite you to build, use, and share. We are here and we will continue on this path, working with users, entrepreneurs, investors, sponsors and education partners - it will take all of us to spread solar energy in the limited time we have to avoid catastrophic climate change.

With the Lytefire 4 construction guide available for free, we allow anyone in the world to build our technology and start using solar energy at a fraction of the cost of other energy sources. We intend to release a lot more construction guides and educational material for entrepreneurs as we continue on this path.

But that’s not all! With the release of the Lytefire 4 construction guide we are also launching the Lytefire campaign to bring to market the Lytefire 5, our most powerful solar concentrator for entrepreneurs. We are also calling on investors and sponsors to join the effort to spread solar energy through product sales, open source construction guides and education. If you want to collaborate with us - check out the different options on Lytefire.com and get in touch with us!

We are immensely grateful to have reached this point. Our belief that solar energy could not only be good in itself but inspire a more sustainable society as a whole is what brought our team together. Knowledge is the most fundamental approach to empowering people, and free knowledge means it can spread wide and fast. We want to thank all our partners, supporters and investors who have supported us over the years. Without you, we would not have reached this milestone. Thank you all!

GoSol Partners, Clients and Sponsors

Learn more and get involved: www.Lytefire.com


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