Improving the Environment and Lives: Building Innovative, Clean Tech Products


Maxwell Chinnah
Terraoak, Inc.
Waverly, IA
We build efficient clean cookstoves that reduce wood/charcoal usage by 50%, and reduce smoke-pollution by 90%. It involves no consumer change-behavior, as individuals can still use firewood/charcoal but without the harmful smoke-emissions; and they will also be able to charge their cell phones.
The founding team is comprised of Maxwell Chinnah ( and Godwin Attigah ( Maxwell is a graduate of Wartburg College with a degree in Computer Science and minor in Graphic Design. He intends to further his studies in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Godwin is a Junior and is studying Computer Science and Business Administration. Maxwell and Godwin both have engineering backgrounds and experience with hardware, electrical products. Maxwell serves as the CEO, and Godwin is the CTO.
The inspiration for Terraoak came from Maxwell's childhood experience of losing his Grandma. Maxwell's Grandma relied on firewood to prepare meals owing to lack of access to stable electricity. She later suffered from respiratory issues and vision problems that, unfortunately, led to her death.
Drawing from Maxwell's experience with his Grandma, the team noted the serious risks posed by current cooking systems in rural and urban Africa (and other developing societies) that rely on charcoal, wood, diesel, and other fuels that are expensive (either in time or money) and detrimental to the environment and public health. Even though there are other cooking devices currently on
the market including the Electrical Cooker, LPG Stoves, Charcoal Stove amidst others, the team evaluated existing options and understood that these are limited in certain important ways:
1) Over 75% of Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to stable electricity; this limits the usage of electric stoves.
2) Prices of LPG are climbing through the roof and becoming exceedingly expensive for the average user, even though it is the most used alternative to the electric stove.
3) Other stoves including Charcoal and Firewood stoves consume high amounts of fuel and cause directly about 4 million deaths per annum (owing to smoke-pollution, which causes respiratory issues and vision problems).
The team realized that any cooker of the next generation should leverage lower operational cost, reduce the overall emission of harmful gases, and improve accessibility to electricity. The team has gone through several, often-challenging iterative processes of design and prototyping; thereby culminating in the Genesys Cooker.
Even though this product is meant to be deployed internationally, the team has identified a niche market in the US comprised of campers. The Global Market for cooking stoves in the developing world as of the end of 2014 was $300 Billion and the market is expected to grow at 15% over the course of the next three years. Overall 500 Million households globally need to be provided with cleaner cooking methods as per the UN’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
The team has received funding from Duke Energy, The Resolution Project and the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. The team is currently consulting with Patent Attorneys from the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Law firm for purposes of filing patents for the proprietary technologies in the Genesys Cooker.
Money will be made from revenue of the sales of the stove to campers in the United States, and internationally to developing societies. The team will also be building other lines of products, such as a bulb that will be charged with the heat energy from the stove and can be screwed back into a lamp holder to produce electricity for folks that live off-grid or have limited power supply.

After the beta-testing with campers in Iowa, we will also launch internationally--starting with Ghana. For this, we have solidified key alliance partnership with the Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana). The YES is a governmental organization that is dedicated to providing employment opportunities to unemployed youths in the region. As part of this collaboration, we will receive a center for training and exhibition, and 50 unemployed youths to help with assembly and distribution of the stoves in the region. Through this, we intend to create employment in the region while promulgating the practice of cooking with clean energy.
Even though we will be launching our product internationally in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, we will expand to other countries in the Sub-Saharan African region after we have gained some market credibility in Ghana. We will also be expanding to other developing societies that are affected by smoke-pollution from inefficient cooking systems such as India, Guatemala, etc.
One of the top reasons for applying is to be better positioned as an individual and a startup to save the lives of the 4 million people that die yearly from smoke-pollution, just like my Grandma. Also, one of my life's mission is to inspire other young, budding entrepreneurs through my efforts with Terraoak.
Since the team has built a functional prototype, funding is needed for beta-testing. The funding will be used to test the Genesys Cooker with campers here in Iowa. The beta-testing will revolve around Human Centered Design; and based on feedback collected from campers, the team will make necessary modifications in preparation for commercialization this year.
This beta-testing will generate more jobs in Iowa, as we intend to set up an office space, employ people and solidify manufacturing connections for commercialization. To facilitate this, we already have secured a license, from the state, to do business in Iowa.
Implementing our beta-testing in Iowa will allow us to get the feedback we need to make modifications for commercialization. This will, in turn, allow us to generate revenue for research and development to innovate and launch other Clean Tech Products. It will also enable us to generate enough funds to launch internationally as well.

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