Solar Fire Posts

The future shines bright with the ‘Sun Light Solar Bakery!’ in Alebtong

Posted Friday 8 April 2022 by Hanna Williams.

The journey continues with Plan International’s Smart Up Factory as the team visits Alebtong, the most rural area the trainers have visited so far! In the Northern region of Uganda, a 40 minute drive west from Lira District. The surroundings of Alebtong are vast with long stretches of beautiful green land, dusty terrains and livestock farming.
The climate in Alebtong has very hot dry summers with mother Earth providing the harmony and balance of the wet rainy seasons providing a green abundance of agricultural farming.

The purpose of this project is to provide underprivileged women and youth in this very rural area in Uganda solar baking and entrepreneurship training in order for the Alebtong hub to have a running bakery to offer delicious baked bread and other solar baked goods to their local community! The Alebtong Smart Up hub location is a 15 minute boda ride from the very small town but in the close surrounding areas there is a school, the Town Council Headquarters and a police station! All of which have been very supportive during the first few weeks, visiting the hub, discovering the power of the LyteFire solar oven and buying baked goodies from the bakery!

As one of the smallest hubs the team has visited, the hub and Alebtong town embodies a spirit of a very supportive and communal family. The Smart Up students worked together in teams, advancing their many skills in different areas, always eager and yearning to learn more! The mission for this training is to deliver a unique type of education that hasn’t been provided before in Alebtong to allow the participants to gain a diverse set of training skills and knowledge other than hairdressing and tailoring which are very competitive businesses within Uganda.

We hope with this training that we provide this hub the opportunity to be an independent and running solar bakery in Alebtong as it is a district like Nebbi but on an even smaller scale! They do not have a bakery in this area so one problem we wish to help solve is creating an income for youths that suffer to find employment especially in such rural areas like Alebtong. Their bakery business will also support the local community with delicious freshly baked bread which is a cheaper alternative for Alebtong shopkeepers that will no longer need to pay for the transportation of food products from towns or cities further afield. We hope for them to build an active and loyal relationship with customers to form a trustworthy reputation within the Alebtong community where the Smart Up students can provide locals with delicious goodies baked locally with the power of the sun!

One Lytefire unit has been provided at the Alebtong hub alongside a 3-week intensive training course in entrepreneurship, technical and baking skills tailored to using a solar thermal concentration oven. Week 1 consisted of how the Lytefire technology works from a technical perspective with the combined education of solar science which introduced many participants to the effects of climate change and global warming. The majority of students were completely unaware of the damage caused to the Planet before we arrived and how climate change is affecting countries like Africa the most with drastic disasters such as flash floods and droughts.

A shocking fact is that approximately 8.2% of infant deaths in Uganda are primarily linked to indoor air pollution from unsuitable cooking spaces using charcoal and firewood. 4 million people, mainly Females and children die each year from household pollution from using unsustainable fuel sources with many other people here developing respiratory problems.
As the majority of the participants were under 24, most with families at such a young age and many of the women that attended the training had children, they were appalled at these statistics. This is where we introduced the benefits of the Lytefire technology, not only improving health but how it helps preserve the environment.

As a small rural area we came across challenges regarding marketing as the students and training team had a discussion on what methods were best to market their bakery during the entrepreneurship training. Collectively, the students decided offline marketing was to be their most favorable strategy as ‘word of mouth’ recommendations spread widely and they could promote their solar bakery with business cards, posters and a Sun Light Solar Bakery logo! Many students and locals in the area do not have smartphones, so they would use SMS and calls to speak with their customers if they had any promotional offers on!

As the students all live locally they knew the market and ‘competition’ in the area so explained to us what baked goodies they believe they could offer their customer and what would sell well. So during week 2 the first few days the students focused on mastering bread loaves and bread bun recipes. They explained many locals didn’t have access to freshly baked bread and only had bread that contained many preservatives in them that were transported from Alio, Lira or even Kampala.

The days following Hasheem, our baker trainer taught the students how to bake cupcakes, G-nut cookies, ginger cookies, sponge cakes, cinnamon buns and solar baked mandazi! The solar baked mandazi sold out due to members of the town council headquarters who made an order of 76 mandazi for their meeting the following day! Once they had one bite they could not resist the taste of freshly solar baked mandazi!

During week 2 and over the weekend mentors and mentees showed up to bake on Saturday at the hub as they had to prepare some more pre-ordered baked goods for solar baked mandazi!
The hub were selling baked treats like hot cakes! Sales made so far from the first 2 weeks and over the weekend were already over 224,000UGX (56EUROS)!

This meant Week 3 was all hands-on deck: Ready steady bake, bake, BAKE! During the last week, Hasheem, our baker trainer, dedicated one afternoon to teach the very excited participants the eagerly anticipated cake decorating class! This included how to frost a cake by making icing bags from baking paper and using specific nozzles to create beautiful decorations on a party cake! As many locals were head over heels in love with the solar baked mandazi, the students had to primarily focus on baking these as the local community enjoyed how fresh and readily available these goodies were!

The Smart Up hub had the Lytefire 5 combined roaster and oven installed so the trainers demonstrated to the participants the G-nut Roasting process. With the sun smiling down in Alebtong the students roasted 10kg of raw groundnuts in the solar roaster for a total of 3 hours. This saved roughly a total of 2kg of charcoal that would usually be used burnt for roasting the ground nuts in a pan.
The process included the rinsing and washing of the ground nuts, then adding 200g of salt with water. This mixture was then placed into the solar roaster and the outcome was super delicious! If you would like to see this process you can check out our video reel on our Instagram page!

For the last week of training the students were preparing for their Solar Demo Day where they would showcase their solar baked goods and present a demonstration of how the Lytefire solar oven worked for guests that were attending. We had family members of the participants attend, amongst special guests Pastor Caro and 2 journalists covering the demonstration day from a radio station in Lira. The sales made on that day were just over 100,000ugx (25 Euros) from the wonderful support of the local community, family and friends that attended the special day. It was a truly wonderful celebration to end the training as every single participant were very hard working and excited about the beginning of their journey with their new solar bakery!


In Embu, Kenya, Don Bosco’s Tech School Solar Bakery is up and running

Posted Thursday 7 April 2022 by Nigel Jonathan, Samuel Rodrigues.

The Don Bosco Technical Institutes boasts a number of different workshops. Walking around the school you can see students working on metal objects, wood furniture, masonry structures, electrical installations and many more activities. Now there is a new work post… a solar bakery!

During the first two months of the year, a Solar Fire team was dispatched to Embu with three Lytefire 5s to install a bakery and conduct 3 training sessions.

The bakery…
…is situated just next to the existing canteen kitchen. It consists of an array of three Lytefire solar ovens, placed in a terrace free of shadows where they can collect the maximum amount of solar power throughout the day. As an added perk, this area has a beautiful view!

The solar machines are mounted on concrete rings that allow them to move smoothly and leveled when tracking the sun and to resist all erosion that could come from running water.
A few steps away from the solar ovens is the indoor space for production and storage of the baked goods . The school had an available room that is spacious and perfectly suited for this. The shelving, drying racks, working table and partition walls were all made by the students in the different workshops with excellent results.

Just after the project implementation weekly production is about 160 loafs of bread and some 450 buns. The bakery team is still learning and evolving so they are only working for internal consumption but once they become more experienced the objective is to start producing for surrounding partner institutions, significantly increasing the production and diversifying the range of products. This will create a new source of revenue for the school.

The training sessions…
…were very enriching moments. Three very heterogeneous groups were introduced to different subjects related to these solar bakeries. Four main areas of knowledge were approached:
Solar science - Understanding the basics of energy consumption and its impacts on climate and the environment
Lyte fire technology - an understanding of how concentrated solar energy works and learning to assemble, operate and maintain the Lytefire concentrators

Solar baking - The basics of baking using the sun and a lot of practical training on a wide variety of baked goods

Solar entrepreneurship - Understanding the basics of a solar bakery business model and the complexities of starting and running such a business.
There were also two events opened to the public so that the trainees could have a feel of the complexities of managing a bakery in a busy day!

The training groups were very heterogeneous and constituted by some students of the technical school, staff, relatives of the staff, members of the surrounding community and students from Embu University which allowed for some enriching exchanges.

From the 34 trainees only a few (mostly staff) will be working permanently in the bakery but these weeks of training also allowed to plant the seeds of a small network around the solar bakery that can evolve into different activities. The school is presently looking into two scenarios:
Organizing more baking training sessions so that these trainees can further develop their skills;
Giving them open access to the ovens so that they can keep developing their own baking activities.

Plenty of challenges and possibilities!
All the best for the Don Bosco Solar Bakery team! We’ll be revisiting them soon!


Uganda May Now Be East Africa’s Solar Baking Capital!

Posted Friday 1 April 2022 by Lorin Symington.

We are back in action in Uganda with Plan International and Plan Uganda! In 2018 we delivered two of our solar bakery and entrepreneurship trainings at Plan’s SmartUp Factory Hubs and now we’re back to do another nine installations and trainings! We have a bigger team and our ovens and Lytefire concentrators are better than ever.

We’re delivering these training sessions to two types of groups this time; SmartUp Hubs, which are youth training centers where underserved youth can come to learn life-skills and get training on a variety of subjects from tailoring to videography, and we’re also training ‘I-Decide’ groups which are typically women-led rural cooperative businesses that focus on empowering women economically so that they can decide for themselves how to run their lives and not depend on fathers, husbands, brothers or other men who might seek to control them.

During the training we cover three main areas: Lytefire Technical training so that participants have the knowledge to install, calibrate and maintain the equipment, bakery skills training where they learn hygiene, ingredients handling and the techniques to make a variety of delicious recipes, and entrepreneurship which includes everything they need to know to market their goods, do the accounting and manage their inventory.

Youth underemployment is a grave problem in Uganda, especially since the start of the pandemic but the great thing about baked goods is that they never go out of style. The fact that these young ‘solarpreneurs’ are using pure, direct solar energy to bake their products only adds to the excitement! Many of the areas where we’re training these youth have no local bakeries. Oftentimes the baked goods come from a town over an hour away, so this, in addition to using free, clean solar energy gives our young solarpreneurs a real advantage.

So far we’ve delivered 7 out of the 11 trainings that are planned. 9 are with fresh new groups and come with the latest and greatest Lytefires produced by our amazing team in Kisumu, Kenya, and the other 2 are ‘refresher’ trainings where we’ll revisit the Lytefires we installed in 2018 to train newcomers and conduct training according to the needs of the groups.

It has so far been a tremendous experience, meeting inspiring young people and adapting our trainings to the needs of each group. We’re recognizing that no two groups of young people from different areas are the same, and their needs differ greatly. Luckily, we have a really amazing team on the ground (if I do say so myself!). We have two training teams working at the same time, the first includes me (Lorin) as well as Augustine (who was one of the SmartUp youth we trained in 2018!) and Allen (a baking industry veteran who is based in Lira, Uganda) and they are training the I-Decide groups, scattered around Lira and the Northern Region, and the second team includes Callum, Hanna and Hasheem, who you might remember from our project last year in Tanzania at the Montessori School in Mwanza. Callum, Hanna and Hasheem are now rocking the SmartUp Hubs (if you’re not following us on Instagram @Lytefire_Solar, you’re missing out on some pretty incredible content!)

We are extremely grateful to Plan International and Plan Uganda for their support, and we’re proud to have a partner that is so dedicated to the wellbeing of young people. They’ve recognized that the Lytefire alongside the training we offer tick many many boxes: environmentally sustainable technology, healthy production of healthy products, socially just organization, empowerment for women and girls, cost effective business, and life skills not limited to hygiene, business administration, accounting and more! It’s not always easy when you assemble a bunch of young people together and put money on the table, but that’s the beauty of projects like this, we can facilitate life changing experiences and set youth on a course for a prosperous and sustainable future.

We’re looking forward to sharing success stories with you, and to working together with Plan to implement this program in more and more groups around the world.


It’s Climate Strike today

Posted Friday 25 March 2022 by Eva Wissenz.

The Lytefire 4 construction guide is at 5€ instead of 99€ for 24 hours (https://lytefire.com/diy-climate-strike). With it, you can build yourself a solar concentrator to cook, purify water, fry, roast in a pan. We are soon opening a forum for builders providing feedback, updates, for a community to build up.

A community complementing everything that exists already with a specific tool generating enough heat to process food and make a bit of money with it. It’s starting in France and in Kenya.

The very first version of the Lytefire was created a long time ago in a backyard in Canada. We continue the good work. We do our best. But environmental destruction is accelerating everywhere. We must spread.

When is this ending?

This way to not honor what we have. This way of seeing enemies. To dominate. Good cop. Bad cop. This is good, this is bad therefore we can destroy it. And then what? Who will be right in the end? Which country will be the last one surviving in a devastated nature? Who has ever had money for breakfast? Who has ever loaded his pockets with money when it’s time to leave this world? How long will it take for major decisions to be made by citizens and governments to finally engage in a caring approach: children, elders, men and women, animals, plants, rivers, bedstones, oceans, mountains, sand beaches, flat countryside and spectacular rain forests, blue sky and pristine lakes.

When do we start to care?

The IEA (International Energy Agency) stated 9 months ago that we can have no more new oil, gas and coal facilities at all if we’re going to have any chance to stay below 1.5°C global warming.

The 2d IPCC report was released last month and we still don’t talk about it, not enough (read it). The key words of this massive report are vulnerability and adaptation. The scientists are also establishing a clear link between climate change and social justice.

At our level, what can we do?

This is everything we are about. And we know that the energy we use and the way we organize our lives around that is a key question.

Lytefire is a caring tech for us to adapt to this sad reality. The Lytefire 4 oven construction guide is at 5€ for 24 hours. https://lytefire.com/diy-climate-strike

If you want to know more about this solar tech, if you feel like asking questions directly to the team, Urs, Lorin, Judith or Muriel are happy to connect with you and book an on-line virtual coffee time with you.
Urs (English / Swiss German): urs.riggenbach@solarfire.io
Lorin (English / French): lorin.symington@solarfire.io
Judith (German / Spanish): judith.bernet@solarfire.io
Muriel (Swiss German): muriel.fuhrer@solarfire.io

Check our infographics to understand the impact Lytefire has in one glance:
https://gosol.org/infographic


Ojwina 2 week Refresher training

Posted Wednesday 23 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

In 2018 the Lytefire solar oven was installed in Gulu, it was then relocated in 2021 and transported from Gulu to Lira’s Smart Up Factory location at the Lira West City Division. As part of the refresher training, the team, Callum, Hannah and Hasheem, revisited the Lira hub for 2 weeks, training the students on more technical skills of using the Lytefire 5 and helping them advance their baking knowledge and skills.
Lira is a small city, based in the northern region of Uganda where you may find yourself in the heart of the city which is energetic and frantic!

But if you take a 10 minute boda boda (motorbike ride) out of the city you are welcomed with the charming abundance of nature, vast green lands and a community life of agricultural farming. With an increasing population of 119,323 in 2022 from 99,059 in 2014 there is no wonder children are forced to work on the streets, finding ways of generating money and with the lack of parental care and neglect these children and adolescents are finding themselves with lack of employment, education and support.

Plan International’s Smart Up Factory provides training throughout many locations in Uganda that offers training opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable youths so they have a second chance of education and gain employment. Smart Up hub is a 10-15 minute ride away from the city center so this gives students a wonderful opportunity to engage and market their bakery with city people and the local communities close by.

As this was a refresher training the team were training the students with the older version of the Lytefire 5 solar oven. So there were a few differences in this machine regarding the mirrors but the overall durability of the Lytefire 5 since the transportation from Gulu was running very reliably with very little damage. A few mirrors needed replacing, which is ongoing when focusing and refocusing the mirrors during training. The overall structure of the machine was sturdy, stable and long standing with 3 mentors who were previously there when the Lytefire 5 arrived, maintained and knew how to use and look after the machine.

For the duration of training we implemented the improvement of their current finance and bookkeeping so they could record cash flow, sales profits and inventory accurately and efficiently. This also included the students learning the basics of understanding how costing and pricing of recipes work so they can recognize how to price each of their different baked goods and how to make a profit. Callum guided the team on focal training so they could really understand how to maintain, work and fix the Lytefire technology for the future of their bakery. This took 2 days while we had one main mentor who felt very passionate about the preservation and management of the solar oven monitored the Lytefire everyday making sure it was in working order!

As an already established bakery from the previous training was delivered, the bakery team named themselves ‘Sun Smart Bakery’. They were operating as a bakery before we arrived but since the refresher training they informed us since we left that they have been baking everyday with made to order cakes! We also experimented with recipes that would work in the Lira district, especially cupcakes as they were previously selling these. After the bakery team baked solar cupcakes with a new recipe, Hasheem (our baker trainer) provided them with and radically improved their cupcake recipe and they were soon selling many of these to locals! Hasheem also taught the students how to save money by making products that were readily accessible in the area such as ginger cookies, mango tarts and banana muffins.

As the location in Lira was not based in the city center and many students did not have a smartphone we explored offline marketing techniques with the bakery team. After teaching the students the entrepreneurship module we discussed Marketing and the importance of brand awareness where we asked the group to create a logo and business card. We soon discovered that this particular area worked well with word of mouth, events and networking to gain exposure of their solar bakery.
The whole 2 weeks of training the team baked completely with direct solar energy with the Lytefire oven! As the Lytefire is made with high quality materials and manufactured in our workshop in Kisumu, the solar oven has a lifespan up to 19 years with a social impact of saving many of the solar bakeries money by not relying on or using firewood, charcoal or electricity.

During demo day our guest of honor, the deputy mayor of Lira city west division came along and supported the bakery team by speaking about the Smart Up project.

Socials:
@lytefire_solar


Kampala’s training for the Solar Tech Bakery

Posted Thursday 10 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

Kampala, the capital of Uganda is the most exhilarating city I have ever experienced! With a population of 3.6 million it is no wonder Kampala is a dynamic and fast-paced environment where you can find yourself getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the city!

The Kabalagala Smart Up hub is a KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority) owned building. The Smart Up Factory works closely with the KCCA and they help with funding the project for Plan International Uganda. The Kabalagala one stop youth hub is a 25 minute ride from the center of town which makes it the perfect location for a bakery providing solar baked goods to local shopkeepers and the opportunity to supply and transport to the town center also.

The youth center became operational in December 2017 with partnership with Plan International from 2018. Since opening the Kabalagala hub they have trained 900 students (270 Males, 630 females) primarily focusing on young vulnerable women in cooperation with Plan International. The team arrived at the Smart Up hub where many other training sessions included hairdressing, shoemaking, graphic design and tailoring. With slow economic growth and accelerating high population rates there is a high unemployment percentage in Uganda. This is where KCCA plans to help solve this situation working alongside Plan International where they create projects such as Smart Up factory to offer free vocational training for young people.

During the first week of training, 1 Lytefire 5 solar oven was delivered to the hub where the students would learn all technical aspects of assembly and disassembly, how to calibrate and focus the mirrors to understand how the concentration of heat in the oven works. Alongside the technical training, Callum, our mission based trainer taught solar science explaining the effects of climate change and global warming. He explained the impact it has on the environment and how using the Lytefire technology can create solutions instead of problems such as deforestation from using firewood and charcoal to cook with.

(Installation of the Lytefire 5 & the traditional stick burning test)

Kampala weather conditions were hazy and the sun shone later in the afternoon. The hub surprised us when we found that they had previously baked briquettes before the Lytefire 5 solar oven arrived. Briquettes are composed of commonly found organic household or agricultural waste, such as peanut shells, banana peels and matooke leaves etc. The students at the hub compressed these by hand into small dense products that can be used instead of charcoal and excess amounts of wood harvested from nearby forests.

As the Smart Up hub was a 10 minute walk from one of the busiest roads with an immense selection of shops, restaurants and bakeries, we split the groups to conduct market research and recognize their potential competitors! When we discussed this as a class, the students understood the importance of having high quality products at affordable prices to attract customers! So of course we had to organize a taste test where the students would try products from local shops and bakers and what they would do differently to make their products taste more delicious!

They realized that to sell their own baked goods they must experiment with recipes, comprehend the costing and pricing of ingredients to determine their price per product. The market research also gave students knowledge on marketing, branding and selling techniques for their own solar bakery!
The students at the Kabalagala hub were so excited about making doughnuts as Kampala had a market for them but not a recipe as exciting as solar baked chocolate decorated doughnuts! Amongst experimenting with doughnuts, the students had also baked G-nut cookies and cupcakes during the second week of training so to test their selling abilities we gave all students a selection of each product to sell over the weekend to generate sales. To our surprise they ALL sold out of the products and between them made a huge profit of 204,000!

(Chocolate decorated solar baked doughnuts and cupcakes!)

Week 3 of training was the combination of all aspects of the modules taught to the students where they continued lots of baking for solar demo day and working out the costing and pricing of each individual product! They were educated in the importance of record keeping, inventory and cash flow to understand how to sustain a bakery business. A few students who were advanced in graphics were taking images and using these for marketing techniques on the brochures to showcase their unique products and attract new customers.
The students were so excited and inspired their sales and the entrepreneurship and marketing module that they begin straight away with the name of the bakery calling themselves ‘Solar Tech Bakery’. After the marketing module was taught we asked students to create a logo, business cards, food labels and brochures! They even created an Instagram account to display off their new baking knowledge and skills from the Lytefire training with images!

(Brocheres, business cards and food label stickers created by the students)

The launch of Solar Demo day had the students exhibiting their established solar bakery with an impressive display of delicious and tasty baked goods! These included a wide variety of products of decorated occasion cakes, cookies, cupcakes, doughnuts and pizza. From the previous week they had made to order decorated occasion cakes from customers in the local community which were on display for many officials of Kampala to feast their eyes on!
The sales they made were 91,000 in total with the guest of honor, the minister of Kampala buying 200 G-nut cookies at 50,000UGX (12 EUROS)! The day was full of joy, accomplishment and celebrating the success of Lytefire 5 solar oven at the Kabalagala hub with the 15 students graduating with a set of new skills and a mind of solar baking knowledge!

An article from the Kampala Solar Demo Day: https://www.kcca.go.ug/news/515#.YiiLd3xBzrc

Socials:
@lytefire_solar
Kampala’s solar bakery IG: @solartech_bakery


Solar Fire chosen as TOP NORDIC 50 IMPACT COMPANY - 2021!

Posted Friday 3 December 2021 by Urs Riggenbach.

We are honoured to announce our company Solar Fire has been selected as one of the Nordic’s top 50 impact companies! Since 2017, The One Initiative has assessed over a thousand companies from the Nordic and Baltic regions, for their impact scalability and commercial viability. We are deeply grateful that our important work is more recognized today. On December 9th in Copenhagen, we will get to connect with fellow impact companies and investors, to build synergies needed to scale our impact.

To learn more about The One Initiative, and see the other top impact companies 2021, visit: https://www.oneinitiative.org/top-50-impact-2021/

We look forward to join the event in Copenhagen on December 9th, 2021.


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