Jodie Wu founded Global Cycle Solutions to develop and disseminate affordable, income-generating technology, like a bicycle-powered corn thresher, to and by smallholder farmers.
“We go to the village to build our products alongside our customers and together we co-create and collaborate, iterating until the design is perfect for its intended market.”
Having traveled through Tanzania, Jodie Wu knew that a pedal-powered machine that removed corn kernels already existed, but it required a stationary bicycle. Jodie, an MIT mechanical engineering graduate, tweaked the design so it could attach to any working bike. Thus, Global Cycle Solutions (GCS) was born. The simple technology expedites the threshing process so it’s 30 times faster than by hand.
After launching her venture, however, Jodie noticed the product wasn’t reaching the marginalized smallholder farmers it needed to, nor was it enough to address the many hardships villagers faced. Recognizing “the fact that people would rather donate to Africa than invest in Africa, despite the limitless possibilities of an investment dollar,” she set out to do the latter. To reach the farmers in their own villages, Jodie tapped local citizens, empowering them by getting them involved in the development and sale of the products.
To address the hardships, she expanded the GCS portfolio to include additional products that relied on the resources already available — solar and mechanical power. The company now offers solar-powered light kits and phone chargers that can be powered by sunlight, bicycle or motorcycle.
Since 2009, “GCS has impacted the lives of over 3,000 families with the sale of its products that were made in Tanzania by Tanzanians,” according to its web site. And just as GCS benefits from their investment, their customers can also expect a return on theirs — the Maize Sheller Kit pays for itself and even turns a profit after just three weeks.