Sturtium is a South African based startup established in 2019. The company uses science and engineering to provide solutions that integrate technology, environmental needs and social needs. The start-up has developed a platform, Sustainatag, for businesses, social enterprises, investors, and public institutions involved with solving sustainability challenges. With the use of Sustainaconnect, Sturtium aims to promote conversations on sustainability issues affecting Africa, provide evidence-based research and analysis to better cater to this area.
Space in Africa had a chat with Ramrall, co-founder and Scientist at Sturtium. Below is the Q&A
Please walk me through your background and the formation of Sturtium?
I am a scientist with a background in environmental science and hydrology. I also have technical knowledge and experience in geospatial applications and coding. My partner is an agricultural engineer and also has experience in water management. We met in 2019, at a time when we were starting our master’s degrees. The company is basically the two of us and we started Sturtium to apply our knowledge and skills to solving issues relating to sustainability and agriculture. We registered the company towards the later part of 2019 but have only begun developing solutions and technologies in 2020.
Tell me more about your service
Our work is mainly focussed on developing technology platforms involving data. However, we are engaged in consulting services whenever we can. We have done one small greenhouse irrigation project relating to the installation of solar panels as an alternative source of power.
You have an informatics system platform. What is your progress with this platform?
The informatics system was developed towards the middle of 2020 and initially, we were targeting people in the municipalities to get them to report environmental issues. Our intended usage was not possible because the municipalities we tried to approach were not interested in integrating it into their systems mainly because of financial issues. However, we still have the technology at work and people can report. So if for example, there is a pollution issue, one can take a picture, and share it with us. All that is needed is that one provides a short description of what they see alongside the image and the GPS location.
Specifically, what issues can one report?
One can report anything relating to the environment including waste, water, power & electricity issues such as illegal connectivity, exposed & fallen electricity lines, and other safety issues that affect the environment.
You have developed Sustainatag, aimed at businesses in sustainability, what are you aiming to achieve with the platform?
It is a platform for social businesses and enterprises to enhance the basic information about their businesses, but only if their operations are related to sustainability. It is targeted at social, environmental, and economic aspects of sustainability and businesses and non-profits that are involved in solving challenges related to that. We view it as a free directory where such businesses can sign up. To promote the effectiveness of the platform, we recently launched, Sustainatag Connect, which is a chat forum related to sustainability. Basically, we are looking to create a forum where people can connect and discuss issues relating to sustainability.
How do businesses use this service?
We currently have 20 enterprises and non-profits listed on the platform. Some of the examples would be “See the Bigger Picture,” which is resource management for non-profits. This is involved with educating people within the community and utilizing people in those communities to collect waste through the resources available, and educating members on the use and importance of recycling.
We are aiming to create a digital ecosystem to enable players in sustainability to network, acquire data, and scientific insights to develop and expand. The two platforms, Sustainatag & Sustainatag Connect, bring experts and organizations together. We conduct research through the data and issues that are brought up, and in turn, provide information on how to utilize data and services by also utilizing the information shared by the experts.
You use satellite data, how do you incorporate it into your system?
We currently utilize open-source imagery and data. We get our data from the NASA Earth Observation Network, who provide the data in different parameters and resolutions. What we do is process it and identify relationships between the data and categorize the environmental issues.
How has the space tech challenge being so far and how much funding are you looking to raise during the year?
It has been exciting so far. The training on creating business plans and preparing to pitch was very useful. Meeting other contestants and start-ups in the competition has been the most fun as we got to see different products and network with them. We are looking to raise a small amount, say Rand 100,000 – 300,000 (USD 6,500 – 20,000), to scale the Sustainatag product.
Have you been part of any other competition?
No, we haven’t. But we received some funding from Innovate Durban, a facilitator in Durban. This was during the conceptual stage and was a form of a grant.
What capabilities are you looking to develop this year?
Our focus this year is on growing the use of Sustainatag website and Sustainatag Connect. We currently have about 400 visits on Sustainatag per month, while the connect platform just launched. We are looking to having conversations on sustainability, then, in turn, have data to be put in various topics. So getting users on Sustainatag Connect, and more enterprises and non-profits listed on Sustainatag is a priority. We are looking to generate revenue by further developing the platform to allow businesses, non-profits and individuals involved with sustainability-focused work to better manage their projects, analyse data and utilise market and problem-insights as well as incorporate spatial and location intelligence. We aim to charge an annual subscription fee for components of the platform or a pay-as-you-go model for certain services.
Njeri graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance, from the University of Nairobi and is a CFA Level II Candidate. Currently an analyst at Space in Africa, her experience spans across Project Finance, and the analysis of Venture Capital & Private Equity Ecosystems in sub-Sahara Africa, with a particular interest in Sustainable Sciences.