SAFR: Scalable and Affordable Fluoride Removal

Big Ideas Logo
Globally, 200 million people are at risk of irreversible, crippling deformities by drinking groundwater contaminated with fluoride levels exceeding the WHO limit (1.5mg F-/L). Although many defluoridation technologies have proven to be effective in labs, most have not scaled sustainably in remote rural regions of the developing world. We propose to implement and scale up our bauxite-based Scalable and Affordable Fluoride Removal (SAFR) process in India, through our recently created nonprofit social enterprise (Global Water Labs). Rigorous lab testing has shown that our SAFR process has the potential to be (a) locally available/affordable, (b) highly effective at remediating a wide range of fluoride concentrations, (c) culturally appropriate, (d) technically feasible and robust in a rural setting, and (e) operated and maintained with minimal labor. We need additional funding to further test our SAFR process in the field setting, which will allow us to iterate our technology and business model prototypes.

Safi Organics

Most fertilizers today are produced in large-scale, capital-intensive units that are mostly located in Europe, China, and the Americas, and then shipped to the emerging markets. Due to the high logistical mark-up, many rural farmers in emerging markets are paying 2-3 times the world price for their fertilizer. Because of their limited income, farmers can often only afford the cheapest, synthetic fertilizer varieties that over the long term actually degrade and acidify their soil. Safi Organics uses technology to downsize and decentralize the fertilizer production process, making it feasible to be implemented profitably in rural villages using locally available resources, labor, and waste. We therefore drastically cut down the logistical cost of conventional fertilizer, and provide farmers access to a higher-quality product. We produce Safi Sarvi, a carbon-negative fertilizer blend that help rural farmers improve their yields by up to 30%.


The problem of poverty faced by millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries is largely due to financial exclusion. Due to limited cash to pay upfront, these farmers face difficulties in buying farm inputs (seeds, fertilizers, etc.) at the start of a growing season, resulting in exploitation by informal lenders who charge them over 100-150% APR. Ricult solves the problem through providing high-quality farm inputs to farmers on credit at affordable rates, using an innovative risk assessment mobile platform. Creating a tailored credit score for the farmers through applying advanced machine learning technique to nontraditional data sources, we provide loans at five times lower interest rate than money lenders and offer a repayment schedule that matches the crop cycle. Our pilot market is Pakistan where there are over 20 million farmers facing the problem.

PedalTap: A Retrofittable, Affordable Hands Free Foot Operated Water Dispensing System


In Uganda, the most common type of water tap is manual, requiring a user to open and close it with their hand. If the tap is at a public water point, there is 60% chance that the person will walk away with an infection, since adherence to recommended practices, such as rinsing the tap after use is low. Other solutions like sensors are either too costly or not readily available thus preventing their wide scale adoption. PedalTap technology is modifying the existing water tap system to create a no touch cost effective solution for developing countries. We are using metal scrap which is readily available at low cost on the market. With PedalTap, reduced potent and infectious diseases spread, reduced nosocomial infections, better hand washing behaviour and reduced water wastage at water points. There is no hand contact so no risk/ fear of picking infection from the tap at public water point.



The information obtained from listening to lung sounds using a microphone is limited. In order to reveal lung capacity and identify the different fluids that may be in a patient’s lungs, Mama-OPE is building upon software developed to analyze data and aid in the diagnosis of lung diseases. Health workers demonstrated the need to know the severity of diseases using the same device. In a statement about the product, a health worker at Mulago hospital said, “One of the most important things I first find out about the pneumonia patient is if they need oxygen supplementation or not and it would be great if I [could] get that using your same device.” Mama-OPE’s product will be able to detect oxygen saturation in the blood based on calorimetric principle.

Kids Write

Through Kids Write, Haitian students in grades 1 to 4 can grow their literacy skills by reading and writing in their mother-tongue language, Haitian Creole, for 30 to 45 minutes every day. Students use tablets to download and read books from a digital library, and to write their own books. Kids Write provides training and support to these students. The project also shares exemplary student work between schools. To increase access, Kids Write loans equipment to schools and offers them a one year trial to decide whether they want to continue with the program before they start paying for equipment. Parents at participating schools pay a small fee of $6.21 per year. A recent pilot of the program found that it increased reading scores by 0.8 standard deviations, or 10 correct words per minute.

m-Omulimisa SMS Services: Mobile Extension Officers in Uganda


With m-Omulimisa, farmers can use their phones to ask questions in languages that they understand and receive comprehendible feedback from extension officers in the region via text messages. Farmers have to register when they use the platform for the first time. To register, they input their district, sub-county, and full name. They also type in a language keyword to indicate which language they use. To ask a question, farmers begin a text message with their specified language keyword. Then, they type their questions in the text, and send them to 8228. Upon sending the query, the text messages are instantly delivered to a web-based platform. Registered extension officers then check and respond directly to the questions on the platform. The answers are then sent back instantly to the farmers’ phones.

Scaling Up the Biodiesel Project


The goal of the Biodiesel Project is to provide UC Berkeley with a sustainable means of acquiring biodiesel as a cleaner alternative energy source for use in campus vehicles and equipment. This will be accomplished through recycling of waste cooking oil from local campus dining facilities. This self- sustaining initiative will provide a fulfilling hands-on experience for Berkeley engineers, educate Berkeley students about renewable energy resources, and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. The process involves filtering the recycled oil and producing a biodiesel product through a chemical reaction. The biodiesel product will then be stored and made ready for campus distribution.

Feces to Fuel

Image_FecestoFuelFeces to Fuel is pioneering a project that unlocks the potential of human feces and other waste streams by transforming them into an affordable household cooking fuel. Sanivation provides in- home toilets to low-income households and a service to collect and treat human waste. The project aims to create charcoal briquettes from human and agricultural waste. These briquettes can be sold for less than conventional charcoal and produce less smoke than traditional household cooking fuels. This in turn reduces the users’ exposure to toxic fumes and indoor air pollution. Simultaneously, the briquettes have a lower carbon impact than traditional fuel. They offer a renewable energy source that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation by the charcoal industry. Additionally, these briquettes have the potential to be successful in the market and provide revenue needed to complete Sanivation’s waste reuse business model.