The Bullet: Southeast Asia is a simple innovation that solves big problems | So Good News
Creativity is often mentioned to think do new things, and innovation to do new things. In today’s world where the focus is on new technologies and the word “innovative” is thrown around for every new product launched by tech giants, I think we’ve lost our basic understanding of the word.
Innovation doesn’t have to be a breakthrough technology or an over-engineered solution. Often it is the simplest solution that solves the most difficult problems. Thanks, Occam’s Razor.
While innovation is happening all over the world every day, I wanted to focus on innovative solutions in Southeast Asia. With over 683 million people and similar challenges in sectors such as agriculture, finance, transport and food, SEA is unique in that solutions to problems developed in one country are often adopted in other neighboring countries.
Here are some notable examples of how people in Southeast Asia have come up with innovative solutions after identifying a problem and tackling it with available resources.
The key message is that innovation isn’t about creating the next best thing—sometimes it’s about identifying a problem and solving it with the resources you have.
Vertical Farming — Singapore
As a land-scarce country with few natural resources, Singapore currently produces less than 10% of its food. In a city-state full of skyscrapers, the solution was simple—plant gardens on rooftops or hang them on the outside of buildings in what’s known as vertical agriculture. Companies such as Sky Greens are at the forefront of the industry, saying their vertical farming systems produce five to ten times more per unit area than traditional farms in Singapore.
Cultivation of microalgae using carbon emissions (CO2) — Thailand
And in a country full of tall buildings and empty rooftops, Thai cleantech startup EnerGaia has decided to use empty space to grow microalgae using carbon emissions. Microalgae are a promising source of bioenergy, and a particular variety called spirulina has high nutritional value.
It seems counterintuitive, but Maejo says in a paper published in the International Journal of Energy and Environmental Communication that supplementing microalgae with chilled CO2 makes it grow faster. This means the process can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Bottles of Sunshine – Philippines
It seemed impossible to develop a simple and effective solution to provide sufficient light in small towns without adequate electrical infrastructure. That is, before Liter of Light social enterprise appeared. The solar lighting project uses recycled plastic bottles filled with a solution of water and bleach stuck through a hole in the roof to diffuse sunlight into an otherwise dark indoor living space. At night, the bottle is powered by a solar battery.
Liter of Light works with volunteers to teach local people how to produce and install bottles. More than 145,000 households have taken advantage of this innovative solution, which has the potential to help more than 125 million people in Southeast Asia who live off the energy grid or lack a reliable source of power.
Hybrid Microgrids — Myanmar
According to recent data, Myanmar has the lowest electrification rate in Asia at around 56%. This is mainly due to the fact that many people in Myanmar live in rural areas, which means they do not have access to the main grid. To solve this, Singapore company Yoma Micro Power came up with an innovative idea to design and develop microgrids, which are decentralized power plants that generate electricity locally.
With 96% of the power generated by solar panels, each microgrid has a diesel generator that serves as back-up power when the sun isn’t enough. In addition to providing people with a source of power, microgrids reduce carbon emissions by 22.5 tons when producing the same amount of electricity as a diesel generator.
Yoma Micro Power has helped provide power to over 25,000 people by 2022.
Simple solutions to problems plaguing millions of people in Southeast Asia are being developed every day by problem-solvers. Only when we understand that innovative ideas don’t have to be sexy or complex can we begin to solve problems using the resources we already have, rather than spending millions of dollars developing a groundbreaking solution.
All opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of KrASIA. Feel free to submit questions, concerns, or fun facts [email protected]