The JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology) tech expo is an event held annually where students from various universities convene at JKUAT main campus to showcase their innovations to their peers and a set of ten judges.

The main aim of the expo is to promote the spirit of innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship amongst students across the country, in a bid to contribute to Kenya’s Vision 2030 goal. Projects exhibited fall into five categories: software design, embedded systems, engineering, agriculture and multimedia. The competitors stand to win various cash prizes and merchandise. This year marked the eighth year since the tech expo’s inception.

It was graced by young entrepreneur and KCB Lion’s Den lioness, Olive Gachara, who promised to incubate the top three projects. Day two of the expo featured Kocela’s founder and CEO, Abel Masai as keynote speaker. The competition was cutthroat but these four teams convinced the judges and their peers that they had what it takes to be the best.

1. Avocado Oil extractor – Winners tech expo 8.0

Betty King’ori and Susan Njeri

This was the expo’s number one project, pioneered by Betty King’ori, a recent graduate of mechanical engineering from JKUAT, currently working at KPMG East Africa Advisory services in management consulting at KPMG and Susan Njeri with a background in aeronautical and mechanical engineering. This is a contraption designed for extraction of oil from avocados by small scale farmers. “We designed the extractor mainly for domestic use, for farmers on a budget of less than KES 50,000. The extracted oil can be used for low heat cooking, mostly pan frying, also it can be used as a beauty product to be applied directly on one’s skin and hair and upon processing can be used to make sunscreen, body lotions, skin laceration ointments, it can also be fortified to make soaps lather easier, it can be used to make vitamin supplements like omega oils,” explained Betty. Their target is small scale farmers, SME’s that make homemade soaps and pharmaceutical companies. Their motivation to do this project was their love for avocados and the need to reduce post-harvest losses due to perishability of the avocado. The winning team took home KES 75,000.

2. Simatech’s SAVE Machine – runners up

This is an automated liquids vending machine that runs on mobile money. It was designed by Pascal Aloo and Maureen who are 5th year mechatronics engineering students at JKUAT. “It allows for customers to purchase products such as milk, kerosene, water without need for intervention from the machine owners,” explained Aloo, “this will enable them to extend their sales well beyond their business’ operational hours.” SAVE is an acronym for Simatech Automated Vending machine.

They worked on the project motivated by the potential of the African continent for developing solutions and their urge to demonstrate that problems are in fact opportunities in disguise. Their main target market is lower income residential areas where shop owners sell liquids such as soap, milk, kerosene and water. They secured the runners up spot taking home a neat KES 50, 000.

3. Bamboo Enriched Yoghurt – 2nd runners up
This is a uniquely flavoured yoghurt whose recipe was crafted by Dedan Kimathi University’s Rona Kambi, Grace Mawia and Margaret Nduta. “The yoghurt is made from cow’s milk enriched with bamboo shoots,” explained Kambi, “Some of the health benefits are reduction of cholesterol levels and presence of antioxidants and phytosterols help combat cancer, lowers blood pressure and boosts overall immunity.”

Apart from this the yoghurt is very sweet to the taste as well. Their motivation to do this project was their passion for food and urge to promote healthy living. Their target market is mainly health conscious individuals. The team took home KES 25,000.

4. Talii – People’s Choice Award

Talii team accepting their award

This is a web application built by four telecommunications engineering students; Paddy Adallah, Allan Munyau, Ajey Githendu and Moses. It aims to improve tourists personal experience when on vacation. “It enables them to conveniently plan and book their transport and accommodation, as well as local tour guides,” says team lead, Paddy Adala. Their target user is the middle class wishing to get the best experience on a tight budget. The platform will soon be launched locally after which they hope to scale to Africa and eventually go global. Their motivation to undertake this project was a need to reduce time and effort spent by potential tourists online looking for suitable offers as well as to provide a marketing platform for local tour guides, promoting culture and helping to boost local economies through tourism.

5. Nova Pioneer(boys)-Juniors Award
This year was also attended by a set of impressive high school students from Nova Pioneer who took home the Juniors Award and KES 10,000, for their AI and ebook selling platform.
The winners are yet to receive information from Olive Gachara, but are all very excited to learn about entrepreneurship at the feet of a master.