• Paul Baranowski

Climate Edge's year in review - Ants and Instagram

Now that we are are kicking off 2017 in earnest we wanted to use this first blog post to summarise and review Climate Edge’s first year and some our favourite moments from each month!

In January 2016 Climate Edge was at its bare bones. No website, no full time employees and certainly no instagram account (don’t worry these have all been resolved now!). Our focus was to turn Gabriel’s (then our consultant product designer) ambitious visions into a design for a low cost weather station we could take to Nicaragua to test on 10 of Fairtrade’s farms.

discussing the prototype

In February, we had settled on our weather station design and production begun, Gabriel was artfully balancing his masters with long hours in the workshop testing and prototyping designs. James and myself were now focused on the sensor technology and begun our work with George Zafeiropoulos. George is doing a PHD in bioengineering at Imperial Collegeand not only helped us design the complete monitoring system but even went as far as helping us brush up on our electronics so we understood exactly what was going on!

Electronics of the prototype

In March our first prototype was built and tested, albeit in the perhaps more temperate conditions of James’ balcony, London fields park and then a garden. We were extremely excited as the design features that Gabriel had come up with were working as expected first time!

In April we took off our electrical engineer hats and put on our manufacturing hats. James’ one bedroom flat was transformed into a production line. We quickly found out that the 113 wires required for every circuit board took considerably longer to solder than expected and we would regularly be working long into the night soldering away. Gabriel was industrious as ever, building moulds and still finding the time to integrate new design ideas as we manufactured. Whether it was the solder vapour in the air, or the long nights and long black coffees, this period of time flew by and our flights were rapidly approaching.

In May we left Heathrow, bound for Managua, Nicaragua, with 12 weather stations carefully packed in our suitcases. After a brief pit stop in customs we were off to Matagalpa to meet the CLAC team. We very quickly realised that this is an organisation that we would like to work with long into Climate Edge’s future. Maria Asuncion not only ran the project with skill but also made us feel very welcome in the process. The insights provided by the whole Nicaraguan team (too numerous to mention here but you know who you are!) were invaluable both during our trip and in subsequent development. We also had the opportunity to meet Lutheran World Relief and their talented staff, led by Carolina Aguilar. We quickly saw much potential for collaboration and they offered us a facilitation fund to continue with our work. This facilitation fund greatly aided Climate Edge and we are extremely grateful for it.

In June Climate Edge started work at Google Campus, a co-working space in East London near Old Street (Climate Edge became a touch more edgy that day). Paul and James also had the opportunity to focus more full-time on Climate Edge and the results were immediate with our ideas rapidly maturing . We also designed and had our website built, our first steps towards expanding our online presence. This was quickly followed with a thriving instagram account – give us a follow!

In July we started at Climate KIC greenhouse under the mentorship of Janet Murray. The arrival of Janet really signaled the start of Climate Edge’s transition from a company to a business. Having implemented our idea in Nicaragua we were free to now focus on how we could make this idea sustainable. We also started discussions with HRNS, the organisation with whom we initially worked with during our thesis. We were excited to work with them again and started planning how we could develop these tools and services in collaboration.

In August we used the funding from Climate KIC, and the facilitation fund from Lutheran World Relief, to expand our team. Our aim was to develop a software for visualising the Nicaraguan data in an easy to understand manner. We employed the skills of Henry Turner, a talented computer engineer who had shipped over 100,000 iphone applications in his teens. Gabriel was also back, having finished his masters, and he applied his extensive skill set to designing the user interface of this software.

September we were nearing the end of our 5 month trial in Nicaragua and therefore our return to Matagalpa. Gabriel and Henry had worked together to create a simple but effective visualisation software and we had planned our workshops to discuss everything with the Nicaraguan team and producers. Perhaps the biggest development in September was that Gabriel became a full time team member of Climate Edge. His artistic flair, coupled with an engineer’s attention to detail has really revolutionised Climate Edge and our progression has undergone a marked acceleration since his arrival.

In October we were back in Matagalpa and very excited to find all the weather stations in tact, although I personally was not excited to find out that a family of ants had taken a fancy to our electronics box as a home. I guess this can only be a testament to Gabriel’s design as it was very dry despite the tropical storms! I only wish I hadn’t opened the weather station in my room as I don’t think either party was particularly happy to see the other…

In November we began our work with HRNS, developing a baseline assessment for the initiative for coffee & climate. This is a great organisation and initiative so we were very excited to get started. It also gave us an excuse to return to Honduras, where this all begun during our masters!

And finally in December we got a taste of Christmas in San Marcos, Honduras! We would like to thank everyone whom we worked with last year and we look forward to seeing what 2017 brings.

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