Small and Impactful
My journey with Dr. Norman Borlaug began when I was in middle school. While I was working on a National History Day project, I began delving into the life of a farm town boy who went on to change the world.
Since my mom is from Cresco, the same town where Norm grew up, I was afforded behind-the-scenes access to his hometown, family members, and friends.
While my National History Day project landed me a trip to Washington, D.C., for the finals of the National History Day Competition, it wasn’t the project itself that I found to be most valuable. Instead, it was what I learned about Norm and how that changed my career trajectory without me realizing it at the time.
The following year, I participated in the Global Youth Institute at the World Food Prize, which furthered my interest in food and agriculture. Exploring political impacts on food security in Libya gave me new insight and understanding that food security is not just a single-faceted issue; there is no simple solution that will solve the problem. But I learned that simple solutions can have tremendous impact and create an avenue for improvement.
My education and college career continued to push me towards understanding food insecurity through my major in Global Resource Systems at Iowa State University. My freshman year I discovered just how large a role youth can play in solving global challenges. While attending the Thought for Food Challenge, a global competition focused on feeding the world’s growing population, I was inspired by the creative ideas millennials like myself had thought of to tackle this global problem.
Encouraged by what I had experienced, I went on to participate in the competition the following year, which led to co-founding a social good startup, KinoSol, with three other Global Resource Systems students. We designed, prototyped, and tested a solar food dehydrator, aimed at decreasing postharvest food loss for small-scale farmers in rural communities.
While working on KinoSol and studying at Iowa State, I had the opportunity to intern at the World Food Prize. It was great to have a behind-the-scenes look at an organization working to further Norm’s legacy of agriculture change.
I saw just how much can be accomplished with a small, passionate team. Not every task is fun, but if you understand and believe in what you’re working toward, every task becomes worth it. That's exactly the culture the World Food Prize embodies — and the culture I wanted for KinoSol.
Reflecting upon the past years of working on KinoSol, I have realized a startup has many ups and downs. There’s no security of a larger organization and being a young team has amounted to making many decisions as we go, learning along the way. We didn’t have years of experience dictating what we should or shouldn’t do. We had to figure out how to implement a physical product in locations with limited infrastructure. It’s a challenge we’re willing to tackle, because we know the impact our technology has and how it can transform livelihoods.
Along the way, we had numerous people tell us no. They told us we were too young, or we weren’t engineers, so we didn’t know what we were doing. And while that may have been the case, I kept thinking back to how many times Norm was told no, yet he didn’t let that stand in his way. He kept pushing forward and so have we. After nearly four years, we have accomplished a significant feat. We’ve now developed a commercial solar food dehydrator and delivered product to nearly 40 countries, changing the lives of over 1,500 people. We know there is still much work to be done. This simple solution has the ability to impact the food and agriculture sector, but it’s not the only solution needed.
Like the World Food Prize is changing the way we think and discuss global food insecurity by bringing individuals from around the world together, KinoSol is changing the way we preserve food.