Derek Newberry

This Week: Renewable Energy Fights Poverty, Makes Great Coffee

The New Ventures Entrepreneur of the Week series continues with a feature on the Solar Trade Corporation (STC), a rapidly growing business that sells solar-powered coffee dryers to farmers in Mexico and Central America. For this piece I interviewed VP Richard Trubey, who somehow made a huge career leap from the non-profit universe to heading up marketing for a young startup.

Richard laughs as he discusses some of the challenges his team has faced pioneering a completely new design in the entrenched market for conventional dryers, but his light-hearted conversation also conveys an acute sense of big trends on the horizon.

The signs that renewable energy could face a surge of investment are on the rise, as World Changing’s Alex Steffen pointed out over the weekend. But while it is steadily becoming common knowledge for some of the world’s biggest investors that clean tech is a solid investment opportunity, the potential gains for the BOP are often forgotten.

We tend to think of renewables as a developed country interest, something that will have to be put off in emerging economies while they tackle ?real? issues first. STC is run by entrepreneurs looking to shatter that myth. Their success in marketing the solar drying system to regional coffee growers shows that even lower-income farmers are willing to pay a little extra for the new machines up front if it means huge savings in energy costs over the long-run. As an added bonus, the system cuts out the middle-man so that local growers are the ones preparing their coffee for sale on the market- this gives them more control over their own product and ultimately more revenue.

The rest of the interview has a lot of interesting pieces in it- Richard and his partners are playing a big hand in setting up a carbon trading market in Honduras, and they have plans to market solar-dried, fair trade coffee nationwide. If you?re reading this from Massachusetts, you can already pick up Caf? Solar at your local Market Basket? otherwise you?ll just have to settle on reading the article.