Up-and-Coming Researcher Earns Prestigious Award for Life-saving Work to Bring Clean Cooking Fuel to Developing Countries
A young Toronto entrepreneur is aiming to bring about a clean cooking revolution in Africa and other parts of the world with the launch of an innovative green charcoal solution that takes organic food waste and turns it into a low-cost, sustainable food fuel.
The game-changing technology has earned Ghalia Baki, 25, an honourable mention award from Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that partners companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research and training. In recognition of the ongoing success of her social enterprise start-up and its important work to deliver a sustainable, healthier cooking fuel to developing communities around the world, Baki — a former Mitacs intern and a Master’s graduate from McGill University in Montreal and one of four co-founders of Toronto-based Lumbrick — will be presented the Mitacs Entrepreneur Award on June 5 at a ceremony in Montreal.
As many as three billion people worldwide rely on firewood to cook their daily meals because they cannot afford to transition to kerosene or implement electricity, Baki explained. The result is a higher incidence of smoke-related health issues such as pneumonia, heart disease and lung cancer, leading to more than four million deaths each year.
Lumbrick’s technology, developed in conjunction with McGill University’s Faculty of Engineering, is the first to focus on developing off-grid machines to dry organic waste and compact it into briquettes the same size as the wood charcoal already being used. Whereas current green charcoal solutions rely on a labour-intensive two-day process to dry waste before it can be shaped into briquettes, Lumbrick’s machines work together to dry, mix, crush and compress food waste from corn, maize, sugar cane and bananas in a matter of hours.
“Our goal is to ensure our technology uses materials that are readily available in Africa and can be implemented in a way that fits the local lifestyle at a lower operational cost and environmental impact compared to wood charcoal,” said Baki, noting that profits will be reinvested in the business with the goal of extending the solution to communities in broader Sub-Saharan Africa.
Lumbrick is currently working with green charcoal producers in Cameroon and Kenya to pilot and implement the technology. This summer, the team is travelling to Kenya to demonstrate that its two machines can be successfully reproduced there from scratch, using local materials, with the goal of selling briquettes by the fall.
Baki is one of seven winners of the Entrepreneur Award, presented by Mitacs (www.mitacs.ca), who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians.
“Mitacs is proud to support the exceptional talent displayed by young Canadian entrepreneurs like Erin,” said Alejandro Adem, Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director. “Support of this research is critical to advancing entrepreneurship across Canada, which in turn boosts the economy, spurs productivity and creates jobs. In the end, we all benefit from the next great idea.”