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How do you make money with Open Hardware?

Protei 011.1 test in Lamma Island Hong Kong
Photo by Meng Lau [] Cesar Harada, holding Protei 011.1 in Lamma Island, Hong Kong.

I should say as a preface is that I am far from being rich (in money) but I am rich in ideas about how one can make money from Open Hardware. Just a few minutes ago I sent this email to an academic friend of mine who is trying to convince his senior University staff how Open Hardware can be profitable. I am sharing this for myself as research note, but also because it might help other people doing Open Hardware work to explain what they do, and how they might sustain it. The technology I am commenting about is Protei, the Open Hardware, Shape-Shifting Sailing robot to explore and protect the ocean.

A/ how you make your profit based on open source hardware and software?

On top of my head writing in the MTR (Hong Kong train system) I can give you a few short term ways to profit from an open source technology.

Open Hardware does not mean free :

  1. We make and sell boats. Either on demand, small scale, middle or large scale manufacturing
  2. We can operate boats and replace multi-million operations
  3. We can sale software, on the boats and server side
  4. We sell services at sea (communication, sampling etc)
  5. We collect data that we can sell
  6. We can analyze data and sell that to policy makers or other labs
  7. We can do consulting work to improve other boats
  8. We keep inventing new things thanks to the community inspiration
  9. We get money from donations because people understand this is an amazing technology and what it does for the world
  10. We get funding from private sources, like sponsorship
  11. We get funding from the public state, because we do it for the general interest
  12. We get to teach about the new tech
  13. Oh! … And we can get paid to do the research :)

On the long term open source could mean that other people fork your technology – transforming your technology / product into a market.
Product -> Market. So suddenly you would benefit from people improving on your work, and you can improve of theirs.

I like to think about it this way :
You can become a leader by taking an unfair advantage and keeping it
You stay a leader by fairly inviting everyone to enjoy the advantage you found.

So it is not about developing a cool technology but also about building a vibrant community around the technology. In fact even if you started it, the community will overtake the technology and make it its own. That is particularly true about science and innovation. The more people would cite you, extend your work, improve it the more valuable you will be recognize as the source.
In the industrial context the more people copy, the more influence. The history of Arduino is a great example of that, now you can find hundreds of copycat, their brand is thriving more than ever. Your competition becomes essentially your best advertising. And they automatically become part of your community and you can learn from their improvement. It is not about control, it is about having access and making sense of the information. Building the intelligence nexus, is how you stay the leader in your area. We cannot control the boat makers, but we can become the resource where everyone goes to, and share their improvements and new ideas.

Two closing references

And, yeah, let’s explore and protect the oceans with Open Technologies!

20140422 Gamers controlling fleets of robots at sea? Protei at Polytechnic U. Hong Kong, Game Design Department

It’s a great pleasure for me to present Protei at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and brainstorm how Protei could be used by gamers.

  • Time : 19:00 – 20:00. Tuesday April 22nd, 2014
  • Location : V1124, School of Design, The Jockey Club Innovation Tower. Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Below are my slides :


Thanks to Prof Gino Yu and Hanna Wirman for the invitation.

20140419 Lunchbox in space

Today, I was really enthralled to witness the launch of a lunchbox in (near) space by the  Hong Kong Space Group, going after the Global Space Balloon Challenge. The balloon started flight around 11:00 and descended at around 13:00. Here is a short video of the launch :
The official video is here :

launching a camera in near space
The team is

  • Andy Kong – Mission Control
  • Allen – Software Guru
  • James – Plane Designer
  • Henry – Plane Designer
  • Ricky – Balloon Specialist
  • Marcus – Test pilot
  • Marc – Classified
  • Sunny – Software

Many Dim Sum Lab members joined the launch. The lunchbox is currently drifting in the middle of the ocean, if you can collect you and return it to to Andy Kong, there is 500 HKD reward for it :) Current location is being updated on the group blog :
We all hope we can get the blue box back and enjoy the video it has taken, most likely looking like this one :

This is what the box looks like inside.
Dim Sum lab member about to launch a camera in space
The team had made very nice job sharing their research, about the weight calculation of the balloon, the camera control, they used the ardupilot (manual) and they even logged and published the data of their last crash. I would love to have the full parts list and diagrams perhaps. The video feed did not work today during the flight even though it worked before during tests.

I’m excited to meet great people with creative technology initiatives in Hong Kong and I hope great collaborations with Protei will happen in near future

Skype in the classroom : Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology

Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology - skype in the classroom

Next week I am going to be teaching a class on the theme of “Develop Innovative Open Ocean Technology” on skype, for free. You can attend, but please do let me know when you want it to happen here by voting your preferred time : The pool will be closed this friday nov 9th.

About this Skype lesson
In 2010, when the BP Oil Spill was pouring in the Gulf of Mexico, Cesar Harada left MIT and moved to the Gulf to develop an Open Source robot to clean up oil spill. From a friend’s garage he developed “Protei” the revolutionary shape-shifting sailing robot that would sail upwind pulling a long oil sorbent to clean up the oil slick. After a successful Kickstarter campaign the newly-assembled Protei team embarked on building Protei_006 in Rotterdam (NL), the largest shape shifting sailing robot to date. In 2013 CEO Harada and COO Gabriella Levine sailed around the world testing Protei technology and developing a business strategy for an innovation that has the potential to drastically lower the cost of surface exploration and cleaning the ocean with an open technology. Protei aims at manufacturing it’s first batch of commercial autonomous sailing robots by the end of 2013 from their newly built Hong Kong Headquarters with their manufacturing partner Seeedstudio in Shenzhen.

In this class, Harada would briefly explain Protei concept, history and future development and will invite you for questions. The themes that we would talk about are ocean robotics, open hardware for the environment, ethics of business for ocean healthy future.

The videos the participants should watch before the class are :
And imagine what a swarm of highly maneuverable robots could do for the oceans (as maneuverable as these flying quadrotors):

Participants should also read

The places are limited, so looking forward to see you there :)
For questions, you can join me here cesarminoruharada – knock knock : do not call during the class  :p

Creativity Lab CUHK

Today I was very happy to make a first meeting with the great people of Creativity Lab in CUHK.
The lab is not opened yet, so everything is still to be done ! How exciting! Thanks for your warm welcome!

CUHK Creativity Lab [ in progress ]

Original file with videos :

2013 Lamma Island Oil Spill needs more Research & Cleaning

On July 14th, my girlfriend and were hiking on Lamma Island (Hong Kong) for her birthday. I was told there had been a small oil spill recently, but I did not expect to see it when we arrived in Tung O Wan, Shek Pai Wan (22.196649, 114.139827).

“June 21, a 10m x 15m slick was reported in waters off Tung O Wan, and a 100m x 15m slick was seen on Tung O Wan beach. The department cleaned small oil patches off Tung O Wan on June 22 and 23, and will send samples of the oil to the Government Laboratory for analysis.”

We made this video with our mobile phone that day, thanks to Nadege Nguyen.

Dissection of a crab

Crab Lungs affected by Oil Spill

Panorama & Photos

Lamma Oil Spill 2013, Panorama, Shek Pai Wan 2013 07 14

Oil Spill at Shek Pai Wan, Lamma Island
That’s how we saw the beach on the July 14th 2013. All the black slug you see on the rocks is oil.

I guess that’s the oil as it was reaching shore a fews days after June 21st 2013 (Aerial photography).

That was before the oil spill. It would be good to get back to this state.

Proposal for further Research & Cleaning

Shek Pai wan site needs more research and more cleaning.

  1. Biological analysis. Sampling crabs, fishes, turtles, shells and study their respiratory, digestive, endocrine and reproductive systems. 
  2. Aerial Photography & Mapping with visible and infrared spectrum.
  3. Underwater photography and mapping with visible and infrared spectrum
  4. Water sample Spectrography to detect traces of oil  (and perhaps other chemicals) in water

All research would be done using Open Source technology and the findings published as we go.

I am looking for Hong Kong residents to collaborate, please get in touch :

Physics of Sailing

Nice little video as an introduction to the topic.

Prototyping Tom Chi Book

20130209 Tom Chi's book
Sometimes you might meet a master. Tom Chi is a master.

Tom Chi & Cesar Harada

I feel lucky. But there is much more.

I was so impressed, I asked where I could buy Tom Chi’s book. And to my surprise, I did not find it anywhere.
So I proposed to write it. We decided to rapid prototype it. “Tom Chi” became a verb. It became a website. It became a twitter hashtag #tomchibook, it became a way of thinking, an attitude, perhaps a way of life.
With a handful of passionate followers and Tom Chi’s himself, we started brainstorming what the book would have as content. For several days, we met regularly. I want to continue until I have a hard copy in my hands. I wrote a 360 Pages book about my father the sculptor Tetsuo Harada in 3 languages, about 700 pictures and drawings. I feel capable and exciting to handle this.

Tom Chi and other's thoughts
All our brains melted over-clocked. We were all willing. And asked for more.

Map of unspoken reality
Needs an explanation.

Vision portfolio, posting
Needs more explanations.

Feeling and perception

Sharing long buried notes

The Brain - the world
So many models.

Prototyping Tom Chi's book

Here from left to right: Tom Chi, Laura Edwards, Cesar Harada, Gabriella Levine in classroom 1, on board of the MV Explorer.

But we did not have only these brainstorm sessions with Tom, we also had classes. Following are some photos and notes from a class.
Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Why we should try more things.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And now why trying, is learning, is saving time towards achieving goals. And is fun.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And why prototyping is brave, and smarter than only thinking. Thinking by doing, is better than thinking only. Why designing by prototype is better than just designing.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And in that respect, there is no such thing as “failure” as long as you learn from it.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same thing when it comes to business. It is not necessary to have millions to test an idea and waste all that time and that money. You can prototype it and quickly find out where it fails, and find many alternative routes.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same for a website or a software. A piece of papers, a few sticky notes. Done. A full user experience.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same for a marketing campaign. It can be acted. You can test it on your colleagues, friends and family. Get feedback, improve, change radically.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Now in the “jungle of options”… How can one finds its way?

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Chi’s clearly defining R&D. Research is multiplying options, even contradictory directions, especially contradictory trajectories. Development is, after choosing one option, or combining several options, to be as efficient and focused on developing one clear thing with a list of specs, deliverables, outcomes.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
For Chi, all products and experiences are producing mental transformations. Our devices alter how we perceive the world, and ourselves.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
As a conclusion of this session, Tom Chi presented the work of his amazing wife Lucille Whitaker and her upcoming book about the inter-dependance of systems, an illustrated educational book.

Protei visiting HK, China
Tom Chi has improved the way we work together and with others.

Protei visiting HK, China
How to manage time, tasks, expectations. How to wrap up compelling experiences into learning, learning into actions, into transformations of the self. I will continue working on the book as long as I am allowed.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
We have some content.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
With the right way of thinking, all becomes possible.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
What is the next internet?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can we be intentional and create a strong platform for collaboration and build a positive global consciousness?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can the singularity be not about machine taking over humans, but a true collaboration that empowers both?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can we work together and exponentially augment human shared intelligence as a continuous dialog, instead of all thinking in our silos?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
For me, this is the continuation of my research on Open Architecture. Above, my illustrated history of western philosophy. I need to continue this research. This is a work of epistemology.

Ways of thinking. To unite the world, we must admit there are many different ways of thinking. It is in diversity that we will find Peace… and Chaos.

20130504 UNICEF innovation talking about scalability

“Everything we build in New York, fails”, heard it 3 times at the event. Rad.
If we want Protei, or any other intentionally meaningful technology to impact the life of the People, it’s got to scale, according to Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian of UNICEF Innovation. Want to see more of them, or how these principles work? Here. Captured at Unreasonable At State, 2013 05 03 in Washington DC.

  1. Build for your user: Simple and cheap
  2. Technology is just 5% of the solution
  3. Things given get lost, things own stay with people
  4. Design for Scale
  5. Create sustainable system
  6. Build Open and Adaptable
  7. High-Level decisions are not made on precision of information

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Principes for technology scalability in Developing world, UNICEF Innovation

Erica Kochi UNICEF

20130425 The Unreasonable Journey of an Entrepreneur Sailing Around the World


After 4 months at sea. We finally landed. After travelling in 14 countries, together. After sharing a small cabin with no windows and a tiny bathroom. It is all behind us now. As everyone was saying good bye,  I had to tell my Unreasonable Fellows “You are not going back home, the ocean is your home”, they are always welcome.

Last Unreasonable at Sea Night on board of the MV Explorer. So magical, did it really happen?

You can imagine it was not easy saying good bye. A new family was formed, now scattered as a global network. Each going back to their countries.

Hard to believe that we were the lucky 10 companies chosen out of about 1000… it is now history. Allow me to list theses 10 companies:

  1. Agua: Providing clean water to 300,000 people w/out chemicals or energy (just plants).
  2. Damascus Fortune: Nanotechnology that transforms carbon emissions into material for spaceships.
  3. Innoz: Most used mobile-app in India. Designed to leapfrog internet. +120,000,000 users.
  4. GuruG: Educates and empowers teachers through a “gamified” platform.
  5. Solar Ear: World’s 1st digitally programmable and rechargeable hearing aids.
  6. Protei: Wind powered, shape shifting, open source sailing drones that explore and clean oceans.
  7. Evolving Technologies: Radically affordable medical devices for maternal care in emerging markets.
  8. One Earth Design: Harnesses the sun for cooking & energy. Ranked best solar cooker on earth.
  9. Prakti: Feeding 250,000 people daily with ultra-affordable and fuel efficient stoves.
  10. Artificial Vision for the Blind : Artificial intelligence leveraged as a non-invasive cure for blindness.

Keep an eye on these guys. What will happen to them in the next months and years? Will they realise the idea that “entrepreneurship can change the world”? Will they become icons of social entrepreneurship? Or will theses companies fall apart? Time will tell.

Testing Protei 10.5

Protei 10.5 Testing in Parque del Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain. Thanks to the Prieto’s (Muriel, Jesus, Rosa), Bianca Cheng Costanzo & Nils Mattisson.

Protei 10.5 Testing in Parque del Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain

Photos by Improbables productions, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet.

What we learnt

The world is a big place, but I want to keep my summary as short and synthetic as possible.

A journey of learning

  1. 20130109 SAN DIEGO, CA, UNITED STATES. Departure
  2. 20130110 ENSENADA, MEXICO. Red tides affect the region. Delicious food, good people
  3. 20130115 HILO, HAWAII, UNITED STATES. Meeting with Henk Carson, Marcus Eriksen & Anna Cummins, Spectacular plastic pollution, Kamilo Beach. Unreasonable short about Protei and plastic
  4. 20130127 YOKOHAMA, JAPAN. Presentation at Tokyo University. Midori, Japanese translator. FuRo Robotics Laboratory. Unreasonable documents Protei visit at FuRo. Akihabara “Electric Town”, Flying Tokyo presentation. Protei and Safecast in Fuksuhima measuring radioactivity. Japan, 2 years after. Kyoto University, departure.   
  5. 20130208 HONG KONG, CHINA. Make it in China! Deciding to set up our headquarters in Hong Kong / Shenzhen.  
  6. 20130218 HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM. Vietnam : “Croire our douter”, believe or doubt
  7. 20130221 SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE. Singapore, Startup Country.
  8. 20130301 RANGOON, BURMA. Myanmar.
  9. 20130311 COCHIN, INDIA. Kochi. 
  10. 20130318 PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS. Maurice. 
  11. 20130330 CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA.  Cape Town, Koeberg, South Africa. The Gangster incubator, great sailors. 
  12. 20130407 TAKORADI, GHANA. Oil + Fish Industry = complicated
  13. 20130421 CASABLANCA, MOROCCO. HACKATHON !!! Redefining success. 
  14. 20130425 BARCELONA, SPAIN. This very post. 


During the voyage we built 3 Protei prototypes that we transported and tested in a variety of waters. Although not having access to our working space, tools and materials often felt limiting, we learnt how to do more with less, simplifying how we prototype Protei.
In a nutshell Protei needs to be:

  • More rugged, to take around.
  • Smaller needs to fit in a standard suitcase and be easy to strap to a backpack. Lighter in particular would allow the use of rechargeable D cells as ballast.
  • Simpler to set, wire at the beginning and while the machine is already in operations with spring loaded clamps at the end of wires.
  • Transparent is convenient for maintenance and acknowledging if there is a water leak inside the dry case.
  • Equiped with a modular removable dry case inside the hull for the electronics makes maintenance much easier.
  • The ease to recycle the hull is critical to most people since they do not want to see Protei polluting the oceans.
  • The mast length should not exceed the total length of the boat, for safer packing and transportation.
  • Sensors: travelling to all these places, talking to local scientists we learnt a lot about the sensors they would want to transport within Protei.
  • Cost: we have a much better idea of who can buy Protei, for what and at what price.
  • Managing Performance expectations: We now know what people want this technology to do. We must make clear that we are delivering a beta product at this point.


Protei Ethical values

  • Define our identity and culture as a corporation. Some have described Protei Inc. as a technology coompany, other as social entrepreneurs, some as a clean-tech startup. Being surrounded by other companies helped us understand how similar and different we are. This may sound obvious for those who know us but this is our corporate culture:
    • Ethical order of priorities: 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit.
    • Open: The problems we are trying to address are huge, as huge as the ocean, there is enough work for everybody. Let’s work together.
    • Hands-on: think and develop by prototyping, by testing the field, in the hands of our user. “Fast, cheap and out of control“.
    • Community-driven development, Product and timing to release open source documentation: To make sure we cover our overhead and stay open, we release the documentation when we ship the product, not before. Internally, we work on extremely fast prototyping cycles.
    • Fast paced. Being an Open Hardware business means that we invite others to copy and improve on what we do. In other words, we are constantly trying to put ourselve out of business, helping as much as we can competition. We have to innovate constantly in order to stay ahead of the game.
    • Radical innovation on 3 main topics (for now): 1. Technology (Shape Shifting Sailing Robot), 2. Open Hardware, 3. Global innovation community (Social R&D).
    • Collaborative, competitive: Collaboration and competition can be one same playful activity as long as it is fair and harmless. Again, the ocean is big enough for all of us, let’s address its issues together.
    • Measured risk: like any corporation, we need to survive to thrive and contribute to our maximum capacity to the world.
    • Organic growth: Protei brings about a new technology, but it is really a new industry potentially. We want to grow with our community.
    • Ambitious but not speculative: too many engineering firms or labs guarantee their technology would scale before testing. Let’s not do that. Because this is a new industry, we do not want to have opportunistic investment speculating and deviating us from our core value.
    • This is about learning: Developing Open Hardware Shape-Shifting Sailing Robots is not that common and there will be bumps on the road. Let’s learn about them.
    • Non-military applications: we will not provide technical support for life threatening applications.

We learnt about what kind of people we want to be, who we want to work with:

  • About the people:
    • Integrity, loyalty: we can all agree that we we are all different, and we need to be able to trust each other.
    • Creativity & Persistance: doing whatever it takes to make it work, even it is not in the job description. Be resourceful, own it.
    • Humour: being capable of laughing especially in the difficult or painful situation. That tells
    • Curious & Fearless: In a given experience, the expected outcomes may be A, B or C. Choose D. Ask the hard and the painful dumb questions over again.

We decided to move to Hong Kong !

  • Decided to move the manufacturing to Hong Kong. We could not have make that strategic decision without this trip.

We had amazing mentors from whom we learnt so much :

    • Tom Chi: about rapid prototyping, ways of thinking, metaphysics…
    • George Kembel: Empathy, Design Thinking
    • Daniel Epstein: Story telling
    • Ken Banks: Being lean, scaling up and making choices…
    • Kamran Elahian: about being kind, the dimension of future progress…
    • Jeff Hoffman: defining your target customer, team building, leadership and employee qualities, pricing…
    • Megan Both: about being business minded, strategy…
    • Megan Smith: the emergence and access to information…
    • Pascal Finette: about pitching and cultivating the spirit of innovation in your company…
    • Chris Shipley: launching a product…
    • Matt Mullenweg: about leadership and control of Open Source project…
    • Coleman Chamberlain: building a company vision and identity…
    • Caroline Whaley: about team building….
    • Prince Fahad al Saud: imagination and the self…
    • Jane Finette: About community building…
    • Hunter Lovins: Green economy…
    • Carly Cooper: about design thinking and running a startup within a large corporation…
    • Scot Frank & Catlin Powers: performance and humanitarian business structure…
    • Amruth: Determinism
    • Rehan Hassan: Start-up legal issues 101…
    • Safecast, Joe Morros: Radioactivity and activism in Japan
    • Truc-anh: about poetry, rage and beauty…
    • Archibishop Desmond Tutu: about god, love and justice…
    • El Alaoui: doing with what you have…

And the list goes on and on…


In every single port we stopped we met people that could benefit from Protei. From the mexican scientists in Mexico studying red tides, to those in Hawaii combatting plastic pollution, the Japanese network of radioactivity sensing activists around Fukushima, to the chinese, vietnamese and indian residents, environmental activists and scientists, South African sailors and roboticists, the Ghanian fishermen suffering oil pollution, the fast growing maker movement and engineers in Morocco. We have learnt so much about our community on this journey as much on the technical, financial, psychological and personal level.


I also learnt a lot on a personal level. Many of which are hard to explain with words.

  • Gabriella Levine: getting to know my business partner. Yes, she’s absolutely awesome across the board. Exceptional, I’m the luckiest man in the world to work with Gabriella. For me developing good people is the condition to developing good technologies.
  • defining my personal identity as global citizen. I have been traveling so much these last years… The ocean is my home. Forever.
  • Achieve a dream, Sailing around the world: since I am a child I have been dreaming of sailing around the world. Check. Next time I want to do it wind powered though!
  • Develop strategies of “How to use capitalism for the Environment”, “Open Hardware for the Environment”. I feel I made a lot of progress thanks to all the discussions we had on board and on land.
  • Built a new family: and that’s not a detail. A trusted network, that’s priceless. 

Learning to “dream with my eyes open”

I think these 2 images below sum up what has changed for me.
Retrospectively I feel I was almost almost gambling, about the different options. I feel I know more what I am doing now.

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

A lot of what seemed mystery is really common sense. It all makes sense.

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

Many of my intuitions have been verified. This mask has the third eye. I’m not trying to evoke anything esoteric here, I am only suggesting that a lot of what I felt instinctively about the business was made tangible. I feel more confident now. Also impatient to get on the “battlefield” after so much preparation.

What’s next

  • logistics of moving
  • visas
  • set up a company in HK in order to manufacture
  • find an office, a workshop and a place to love
  • anticipate transportation, food, insurances
  • Find a sponsor / partner / client to contribute towards our manufacturing cost and be at the forefront of sailing technology and re-inventing ocean big data capture and clean up

1 ship. 100 days at sea. 14 countries. 10 companies. 2o mentors. 600 students. A life changing experience.

Unreasonably yours.

20130421 Morocco

Protei Hackathon!

make code sail share

From right to left  “Make, Code, Sail, Share” in arabic.

The video: | The custom wesbsite : [archive]

I love the comment of the Unreasonable at Sea Media team explaining what a “Hack-a-Thon” is :

While in Morocco, Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada of Protei took advantage of the engineer community in Casablanca to host what they called a “hack-a-thon”. While most people think of “hacking” as “the process of gaining unauthorised access to computer systems for the purpose of tampering and / or stealing personal and financial information,” the intentions for the event was far from malicious or illegal. The attendees of the event were presented the challenge of designing and testing a boat in 12 hours using scraps and raw materials not typically used for constructing any type of aquatic vehicle. The accelerated learning and prototyping that came out of the event defines a new type of “hacker” as one “who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.”

We have to give great thanks to ESITH ENACTUS for being such great hosts and participants. The workshop was lead by :

  • Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
  • Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
  • El Wali El ALAOUI (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.
  • Darren BENNETT (USA): Creative Director, Microsoft Studios, Member of the original Kinect group.

None of this would have been possible without MCISE (Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) The event was sponsored by Microsoft Studios, Xbox, filmed (above) by Unreasonable Media, and documented also by Improbable productions for Thalassa, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet. We also want to thanks the TEDxCasablanca team for their hospitality.

Protei Hackathon Poster !

Half of the workshop was in french, some in english, and a little in Arabic. We broke into 4 teams of about 8 people each. This was the program of the day.

  • 10:00 – 11:00 : Introduction. Open Hardware movement. Protei. Workshop intro, Q&A. Break into groups. 
  • 11:00 – 12:30 : Rapid prototyping. 3 fast cycles of design rapid prototyping in small groups. 
  • 12:30 – 13:00 : Quick lunch. 
  • 13:00 – 14:45 : Build in small groups with instructors, quick review.
  • 14:45 – 15:00 : Quick public review of each unfinished prototypes. 
  • 15:00 – 16:30 : Final build of prototypes. 
  • 16:30 – 17:00 : Walk to lake with prototypes.
  • 17:00 – 18:00 : Test in the water. fim, photos, documentation.
  • 18:00 – 19:00 : Diner
  • 19:30 – 24:00 : Work at ESITH for those who want to continue, advanced hacking, improve prototype, documentation, share on social media.

Protei Hackathon, by Salaheddine El Hanafi

Our amazing organising team!!! 4 boats in the water! All winers!

Super Protei instagram

We gave a t-shirt and a hoodie to the winning team… A few hours later : this was on facebook!!! The pride of working together is mutual. Thanks to Roman Yablonski for the amazing Protei logo, people love  it! We must also tell for the story that our original intention was to hold the Protei Hackathon, at the first and only (to date) hackerspace in Morocco : SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace in the middle of the desert by the sea, founded by the mesmerizing El Wali El ALAOUI. I designed this sticker in honor of our collaboration :

Protei + Sahara Labs

We keep precious memories from the hackathon. Next time, Protei hackathon in Tarfaya, Inchallah! 

Protei meets OCP

We have been lucky to meet the sustainability managers of the largest Moroccan company, the OCP.  “OCP is the world’s biggest exporter of phosphates and derivatives. The company is solely responsible for the production and sale of Moroccan phosphate resources, mined at the Khouribga, Ben Guerir, Youssoufia mines totaling 85 billion cubic meters of reserves in central Morocco, and Bou Craa about 1 billion cubic meter in Saguia el-Hamra region, in the Morocco-controlled part of Western Sahara. OCP is a state owned company created in 1920.” Source : Wikipedia. OCP has both an R&D and a sustainability department. OCP used to operate a large fleet of ships to export phosphate, but it is no longer the case, it is now the client that is responsible for procuring the materials. We had a good discussion about the environmental implications of the OCP and will keep contact with the group. Special thanks to Soraya Joundy for the intro.


Redefine Success, Young Chamber of Commerce Rabat

20130419 Success_story

What is success to you? For me it is to conciliate Humans with Nature and Technology. It comes from my belief that without the environment, there is no social structure, without social structure no technology, no technology no money. So the only business I want to be involved with, would have an order of priorities that is clearly 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit, which is pretty much the contrary of business as usual. I personally think such conception of business is the best way to reverse our negative impact on the environment and gear out of the anthropocene. The Ocean is where all life comes from. The ocean is the future of our habitat, food, energy, transport, communication, security. More than protecting it, we must make sure it thrives with life.

Essentials Ocean

For those who are more math-minded :

Environmentally Successful Product

I tried to explain this so many times, and often got that blank expression in return. The normal curve that some environmentalists advocate doesn’t start to be good enough for the environment. It is not about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we need to go much further than that if we want to revert our negative impact on the environment. The idea is very simple. What people call “green-tech”, “eco-friendly” or “clean-tech” suggests that it is good for the environment. Not neutral. But that can only be true over time. For example : a solar panel requires a lot of energy to be manufactured. You need to use a solar panel for a long time, maintain it and use it in an efficient context to offset the environmental cost of designing, developing, manufacturing, packing, shipping, selling it to a customer (first half of the red area on the graph) before you even start using a green product. I remember reading an average solar panel needs to be used ~10 years (other half of the red area) to offset it’s own environmental cost from fabrication to sale. It is only after 10 years of regular use that a solar panel goes below being neutral and starts becoming really having a positive environmental impact (green area on the graph) until it “dies”. Even that does not include the product “after life” when it is being recycled, hopefully “returned to nature” without damage or accumulation in a landfill.

Protei collecting ocean data will not offset it’s own environmental cost easily. What it does, it reduces the environmental cost dramatically in comparison to operating a large fossil fuel-powered oceanographic vessel for the same job. On the other hand, a large Protei unit that performs environmental clean up (plastic debris, oil spill) would offset it’s environmental cost very quickly by capturing trash /pollution / environmental “value” in the ocean that others have produced. I call that “absorbing other companies externalities“, some people use that to get evaluated on the carbon market. We want to partner with companies that have a lot of these externalities, probably through the channel of Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility, some companies would speak about “Shared Values“.

Why do I mention that in my blog post about Morocco? 2 main reasons :

  • I encourage young engineers to think that it is not about minimising the negative environmental impact their technology has ; it is about having a positive impact on the environment. That may mean changing the agenda of the company. Can it be profitable? I think so in many cases. If not short term, that comes across to me as a generally good long-term strategy. What’s also true, is that destroying the base of everything else – the environment – will not permit any of the rest to happen. We need to make these choices.
  • In this post I mention OCP. OCP is apparently doing a great job mining phosphate in its own rights, but the fertiliser that gets exported, when used inappropriately by their clients can have heavy implications on the environment, especially the oceans with hypoxia, eutrophication and many other directly or indirectly fertiliser-induced effects on the ocean do occur. We would love to investigate on this topic and perhaps assist OCP improve the after-sale.


We enjoyed Morocco and we’re excited to come back. These days some of the people we talked to are discussing how they could open and manage a hackerspace in Casablanca :) … That’s exciting! Keep going ladies and gentlemen!

20130414 Protei customer definition, big lesson of marketing by Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman

With Gabriella Levine, we had the amazing luck to have Jeff Hoffman who “is a serial entrepreneur in the internet, technology, and entertainment industries. He has founded, co-founded, and been the CEO of numerous start-ups and larger companies, and has led his companies through acquisitions and public offerings (,, CTI, and others).” Jeff told us that many people have great ideas, what really makes a difference is the execution, but more precisely the targeting of the customer. Who will buy? At what price? What kind of quantity? When? How? These are critical questions that change over the lifetime of a product and keeps changing as the technology improves, the cost fluctuates depending on the supply – demand balance and the marketing and distribution strategies.

We had for Jeff  these 2 main requests :

  1. Help us narrow down our customer target
  2. Help us “choreograph” the timing in the pricing and product / technology development


Put the client in the room

Put the customer in the room

Jeff’s first advice was to literally put the client in the room. So we did! We drew a life-size client in the room who would be writing either a bank check (yes!!!) or a “fail” sign (no!!!). Having the client in the room helps you answer these hard questions. The client should be there at every stage of decision. We called our client “William” and quickly we realised that William would not be our (only) client in reality, if our client at all. So… we realised that we would quickly  see a “fail” sign if we were not more thoughtful here. So… who is Protei’s client?


Who will buy Protei? At what price? In what kind of quantity? How?

In search of the customer

Jeff told us that most entrepreneurs would say that “the entire world would buy their products” (by year 4, more than 50% startups would die btw), but since it is impossible to target the entire world, it is a wise idea to target as precisely as possible to start with. Jeff said “Think big, act small“. The people would buy / use Protei come in many different color sizes and flavours (from left to right) :

  1. Humanitarian user: someone who’s life depends on the data / clean up work produced by Protei. This user is hard to reach, has very limited resource and needs a very highly performing product. Even if this potential user makes the greatest use of Protei technology we may not be able to serve this user immediately since our technology is so new and untested. 
  2. Kid: Kids are great users, they want a product that is easy and fun to play with, it has to be cheap and robust, plug and play and we can sell in great quantity, but few parents are ready to put a lot of money on expensive toys.  
  3. Hobbyist: Hobbyists are great because they love novelty, they are patient to receive their order they have passed on-line, they tend to be very dedicated to assemble, test, document their activities and give us feedback on-line.
  4. Hacker / Maker: want a product that is modular and extendable to modify and run their own experiences on the product as platform. They tend to be very good at tinkering and sometimes good at documenting and sharing their improvements with the community.
  5. Ocean Scientists: are our ultimate target as they are the one that serve the highest goal of Protei that is to explore and protect the ocean. That’s what we want to turn kids, hobbyists and hackers into: active advocates, data-producers and ocean-cleaners. Now Ocean Scientists in academia and institutes generally do not purchase machines and instruments with their own money, they would carve out part of their lab budget to buy Protei. What ocean scientists need is reliability and extendability since often times, the instruments they will put inside will add up to be much more costly than Protei itself. So, interestingly, if ocean scientists may not make the biggest volume of sales, we want their technical needs to drive the evolution of Protei.
  6. Sailors: We have sailors (of real large boats) but they are falling very much in the hobbyist category when it comes to operate a 1 meter long Protei. 
  7. Industrial: this is where most revenue may come from in the future but currently the technology is not mature enough to market Protei. These guys are willing to put big money for industrial applications but they need industrial 100% reliable results.
  8. Military: big money surely, but that is not our culture and not what we want Protei to be developed for. 

We decided :

  • GREENOur target for MARKETING = Hobbyist / hacker! This is where the greatest volume of sales can be achieved, determining the packaging, channels of marketing and distribution (mostly on-line distribution).
  • RED: Our target for QUALITY = Ocean Scientist! We want Protei to be used for ocean science and collect ocean data, so we need to know more from our “golden user” the ocean scientist that will drive product and technology development. 

Product evolvability : in short that means that we will market a product aimed at hobbyists and hackers that would be easily upgradable to be used for ocean science.

Redefine Product with a user-centric lens

Protei Customer wants

Now we know who is our target market (Hobbyist / hacker) we take in consideration what they want in GREEN, they want to have fun:

  • 1. Easy to use
  • 2. Affordable

Right after which comes the requirments of our quality target (Ocean Scientist) in RED, they want reliability:

  • 3. Robust
  • 4. Modular, Extendable

so they can install all sorts of ocean sensor on the sailing robot.
This is a user-centric approach that redefines our product agenda and development strategy.
Very different from the engineering, scientific or intuitive / artistic approach we had so far. It was more than time to do this.



Customer profiling

We made the assumption that different buyers would buy a device at a very different price (with different features of course) :

  • $1 : Humanitarian user (subsidised)
  • $250 : kid (parents paying)
  • $700 : hobbyist
  • $500 : hacker
  • $1000 : ocean scientist (using lab budget)
  • $700 : Sailor
  • $5000 : Foundation
  • $7000 : Industrial

Empirical criteria ranked on a scale of /100 :

  • Pricing: at which we can sell each machine depending on the client profile (above)
  • Promotion: satisfied clients are our best representatives / evangelists. Especially at the beginning, influence might matter more than pricing or even volume of sales. 
  • Improve and share: Protei is Open Hardware that means that we actually invite people to use (copy), modify and distribute our technology for free. We’re asking in return to be credited but most importantly we’re requiring our community to contribute to improve the technology. So our  customers are really our R&D department, we treat them as our most precious collaborators. 
  • Contribute data sets: We may have few sales to ocean scientists, gathering data, analysing them is going to be what adds the most value to our sailing platform for remote sensing
  • Accessibility: How easy it is for us to reach our clients? That’s totally subjective, that’s our social networks, the people we like to talk to, the people who like us. 
  • Ease of Production / expectations: Industrial users have extremely high expectation and even if they are willing to pay a high price it will take us a long time to meet their expectation. Kids just want to play, it is much easier to produce for them. Hobbyist / hackers / ocean scientists are the most likely to tinker and to be satisfied with an alpha product
  • Ease of delivery: where are we located? Are there high tax / regulation / compliance on imports in the country for the application envisioned? Is the country we’re trying to work with politically unstable, suffering corruption?  

These different factors allow us to carve out the potential each client profile have for us. That’s the yellow line.
Next is to roughly estimate how many Protei boats we can sell to each of these potential client. That’s the red line.
So now we multiply the yellow line by the red line and obtain the sales potential per client profile. That’s not an accurate technique in any way, but that’s fast and easy helping us find out who gains the most value from our product VS what’s the sales opportunity for us.

For Protei at the current stage, the rank for potential revenue from sales would be :

  1. Industrial: scoring the highest because that’s where we can make the biggest marging, but the technology is not ready for that yet. 
  2. Hobbyist: that’s the immediately most accessible market
  3. Sailor: same as hobbyist as they are passionate about sailing and willing to invest money in their passion
  4. Foundation: they would finance buying many units at the same time but they are quite hard to get
  5. Kids: as we come on the market, we want to build a brand culture that is welcoming for kids but that’s more aimed at ocean scientists
  6. Ocean Scientist: our favourite user but almost smallest group!
  7. Hacker: “hyper-technological-human-anomaly”, but oh so valuable ;)
  8. Humanitarian user: the one that personally needs our technology the most that is also the hardest to get to and serve.

volume of sales by customer profiles

This research is highly valuable since it tells us that extreme users – that we expect to represent a minority of our clients – are the one that are driving technology development even if they rank very low in our sales  potential. I think this is not unusual, and crucial for us to aknowledge who are the most valuable (in volume) and/or influential buyers / makers of our products. That also tells us that we need to fight to get to industrial users as fast as possible.


Strategy & Marketing, to reach our goals of sales and cultural growth

Meeting with Jeff Hoffman

Now we know the quality we want to achieve (ocean science), and we know the target client (hobbyist), how are we going to orchestrate our sales?
As our customers are our R&D , our community for a Open Hardware technology, we cannot stress enough how determinant it is for us to be intentional about how we set the right culture (hands-on, hacking for ocean science) around our product depending on who are going to be our first users.

  1. $1000: Early adopters, setting a culture. Ocean Scientist. We want our first users to be hackers – ocean scientists. They are a minority of power users, that will be our star-testers, tinkering and driving with us the development of this new technology.
  2. $700: Quality UP, Price DOWN! Hobbyist,  sailors. Driven by our small but high-profile community, we can improve the technology and deliver a second generation of machine with many more features as a kit. Basically it would be a version with more sensors, more powerful electromecanics, more processing and communication range etc. As a reminder, even if $700 could sounds like a lot, it would actually be a very good price for a sailing robot that could be made autonomous with a suitable embed intelligence and sensors.
  3. $500: sustainability and growth. Hackers.  $500 retail price is the current average price for a basic 1 meter long RC sailboat. For that price, I believe we should be able to build a very robust sailing robot fully fitted with sensors and an android powered CMU on board. That kind of price and high quality for value should satisfy the greatest volume of customers while being a powerful and extendable platform for science for a while.
  4. $250: Democratize! Kids. Once our technology has been validated by a small (read manageable) but highly qualified core group that would have contributed design and code improvement, it would be time to broaden the diversity of customers. We should open to a large volume of sales also after we have built a robust and scalable data infrastructure to welcome. The dream is “Science instrument at the cost of toy!”.
  5. Kits: customise your product. As an Open hardware company, we pride ourselves to be transparent and offer our clients to buy the parts they want and assemble the boat they dream of. From travelling around the world and talking to potential clients, it became very clear that Protei would be one product in our catalog and that even the internal components of Protei could be used for many other sailing robots designs. At this point we will diversify our offer and empower the community of makers that want to explore and protect the oceans like we do.

From making this one day research we learnt enormously about our sales strategy, and how we intend to building our community and culture around products that they would love and invest in. Thanks a lot Jeff Hoffman for this great lesson!

20130420 Promoting Protei Hackathon Morocco April 20th

Protei hackathon in Morocco

Protei is coming to Morocco !!!
With a Massive Hackathon !!!!
It will take place Saturday April 20th all day, we are looking for a location – so apologies for the french – english mix below.
Protei in partnership with SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace / Thalassa / Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship – Moroccan CISE


Venez fabriquer des robots a voile basés sur micro-controller Arduino, Raspberry π, servo-motors, DC moteur et autre senseurs pendant une journée inoubliable d’électromécanique, de code, de test dans l’eau, de rencontres. Nous fabriquerons des coques de bateau, des mats, des voiles, des boitiers de contrôle mécanique, assemblerons des circuits électroniques, programmerons, testerons nos machines sur l’eau, partagerons sur les réseaux sociaux. Nous discuterons aussi les principes du mouvement DIY et Open Hardware (technologie libre et gratuite).
Protei est un navire autonome Open Source a coque articulé developé pour explorer et nettoyer les océans. Les océans souffrent de marées noires, de pollution plastique, fuites radioactives, surpêche, mort des récifs coralliens, changement climatique, montée du niveau de la mer. Nous devons developer ensemble des technologies àtants la hauteur de ces défis.
Le hackathon est ouvert aux experts comme au débutants sera facilité par :
- Cesar HARADA (France-Japon): Inventeur du system Protei de bateau à coque articulé, Ancien Project Leader au MIT, TED Fellow.
- Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master de ITP Tisch de New York.
- El Wali El Alaoui (Marocco): Fondateur de SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, premier hackerspace au Maroc.


Come for a 1-day intense hands-on workshop we will build remote-controlled sailing robot based on arduino microcontroller, raspberry π, servo-motors, DC geared motors, and the available parts. We will build boat hulls, mast, rudders, sew sails, assemble electronics, write code, build circuits, test-sail our boats the water, and document it online. While doing so, we will also discuss some of the concepts of DIY & open hardware movement.
Protei is an Open Hardware Shape Shifting Sailing Robot to explore and clean the oceans. In order to address the scale and complexity of the issues in the ocean – Oil Spills, Plastic pollution, radioactivity, overfishing, Coral reef mapping, red tides and climate change- we must develop scalable, hence, Open technologies.
The hands-on workshop open to experts and beginners will be facilitated by :
- Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
- Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
- El Wali El Alaoui (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.


Nous cherchons un espaces avec ces critères suivants:
  1. pour 50 personnes, tables, chaises
  2. proximité de l’eau (lac, grande piscine, mer)
  3. electricité, Internet
  4. capacité de faire de la poussiere et travailler tard le soir

Vous connaissez un tel endroit?

20130410 Ghana, lack of ocean data and oil spill preparedness

Fishing near Axim

We’ll start by the fun stuff with good Ghanian music :) We were very much interested about the life of the Ghanian fishermen, so we just drove there and met a community of them near Axim. After a few minutes of discussion we asked if we could join them for a fishing experience and they accepted to take us out on the water. At rising sun, we pushed the vessel in the water on big steel rolls and wood boards, passed the wave breaking point, sailed to the fishing spot, deployed our nets, sailed back to shore, pulled the nets for a long time. I was surprised that even for pulling the nets back on shore, no mechanics is being used, it is all raw human power. The men were incredibly strong and pretty much risking their lives without any safety. The reason why we came to visit the fishermen, is because we wanted to know if their had been affected by the recently introduced offshore oil industry nearby. Thanks to Samuel Ainoosoa Kwesie for introducing us to the captain.

Ghana Oil Industry

Ghana Petroleum (Thousand Barrels per Day)
Ghana Petroleum (Thousand Barrels per Day). Source:

I did my homework about Ghana: Large oil reserves have been discovered in 2007, in 2010 Ghana joined the league of oil-producers, in June 2011 Bloomberg reports that “Ghana’s GDP Growth Accelerates to 23% as Oil Production Starts”.

Ghana Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Million Metric Tons of CO₂)
Ghana Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Million Metric Tons of CO₂). Source:

According to the World Bank Ghana is a relatively healthy democratic developing country with a good multi-party political system, freedom of press, a good education infrastructure, with a growing industrial, illegal mining (Ghana is one the top producer of gold), oil and growing population. The CO2 emission is in steady increase – not that this would be an index of sustainable growth rather the contrary- but indicates the country is increasingly active on the industrial, transportation and construction fronts. So overall Ghana is doing “well”. Still we found several important issues:

  1. Rising cost of living
  2. Poverty (28.5% below poverty line in 2007 est., source)
  3. Mining pollution impacting water quality (heavy metals)
  4. Oil Industry impacting fishing industry
  5. Whales death 

These 3 last points in bold can partly be addressed with Protei.

Lack of Oil Spill Preparedness

Uploaded on 8 Jan 2012, source: Christiane Badgley,

I recommend watching 2 short movies of May 2011 about “Fish VS Oil” Part 1 (2’32) , Part 2 (3’36) communities or this longer and more detailled documentary (22 minutes, Dec 2012) . Several reports indicates that Ghana lack oil spill monitoring and cleaning capability: Bloomberg, Ghana News Agency, even if the EPA claims having a sufficient contingency plan. Either way Protei could really contribute to early oil spillage detection and clean up.

SINOPEC Chinese fortress

SINOPEC Chinese camp

At the top of the hill above the fishermen’s village, there is… a chinese castle! SINOPEC is installing a large pipeline along the coastline.
SINOPEC Chinese camp
Inside, a real garden of eden with multiple fountains. We were told that about 100 skilled chinese engineers and workers live here. Many Ghanians seem to be unhappy with the chinese presence and feel their natural ressources are being exploited by foreigners. As a half-asian person, I wonder why Ghanians do not build their own castles and garden of Eden… And why Ghanian authorities let chinese operate at a scale they do not feel comfortable with? Quickly after we got in, the SINOPEC security agents came, asked us to delete our photographs and leave.

Tullow Oil


Tullow is the largest Oil Industry operating in Ghana on the main Oil Field called the Jubilee Oil Field. We visited their headquarters and attempted speaking to their environmental department without success. We are in email communication now. Below are the concessions of the Jubilee oil & gas field:

  1. Tullow Oil – 35.48%
  2. Kosmos Energy – 24.1% (Article about Kosmos investing 1B to develop Ghanian Oil Fields)
  3. Anadarko – 23.4%
  4. Ghana National Petroleum Corporation – 10%
  5. Sabre Oil & Gas – 4.05%

According to the locals we met, the annual turnover of several of these companies are many times the turnover of the whole country of Ghana.

Ministry of Energy

Thanks to Faustine Araba Boakye of the International Clean Cooking Association, we were able to meet Kofi Agyarko.

EPA Environmental Protection Agency

At the EPA we were able to speak to Ebenezer K Appah-Sampong, Director Planning, Programming, Monitoring & Education.

Ministry of Fisheries

At the Ministry of Fisheries, we spoke to:

  • Director: Samuel Quartey
  • Director of Marine Fisheries: Mathilda Quist
  • Marine Fisheries Research Division: Paul Bannerman
  • Field researchers: Joseph Seboah, Richster Nii Amarfio, Noble Wadzah, George Awudi 

On the wall of the Ministries of fisheries we could read some press cuts: the World Bank is running a program (among many in Ghana) worth US$ 53.80  million. It is labelled as “loan and credit“. Below is the program abstract:

The development objective of the First Phase of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program Project is to support the sustainable management of Ghana’s fish and aquatic resources by: (i) strengthening the country’s capacity to sustainably govern and manage the fisheries; (ii) reducing illegal fishing; (iii) increasing the value and profitability generated by the fish resources and the proportion of that value captured by the country; and (iv) developing aquaculture. There are five components to the project. The first component of the project is good governance and sustainable management of the fisheries. This component aims to build the capacity of the Government and stakeholders to develop and implement policies through a shared approach that would ensure that the fish resources are used in a manner that is environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically profitable. The second component of the project is reduction of illegal fishing. The component aims to reduce the illegal fishing activities threatening the sustainable management of the country’s fish resources. The third component of the project is increasing the contribution of the fish resources to the national economy. The component aims to identify and implement measures to increase the benefits to Ghana from the fish resources, by increasing the share of the value-added captured in the country. The fourth component of the project is aquaculture development. The component aims to set the framework for increased investment in inland aquaculture. The fifth component of the project is regional coordination, monitoring and evaluation and project management. The component aims to support project implementation and regional coordination with the project, ensuring that regular monitoring and evaluation is conducted, and the results are fed back into decision-making and project management. Administrated by Berengere P. C. Prince.

The program started in July 2011 and will end in December 2017. This is a very important information. There is capital to carry on all these tasks, clear objectives and deadlines.

University of Ghana, Professor Christopher Gordon

Professor Gordon is the most scientifically educated and creative person we met in the country.
Prof Gordon mentioned that Protei might be an interesting device to deploy in Lake Volta, but also the many lagoons to study oxygen levels, redox potential, sedimentation and other environmental parameters. Lagoons tend to accumulate land-borne pollution in particular heavy metals from mining. We are interested to build a pilot proposal with Prof Gordon and use University of Ghana as our base when we come to Ghana. A topic that we are also interested is the interaction between the oil and the fishing industry when it comes to environment.

Center for Environmental Impact Analysis, Samuel Obiri

With the sharp mind of Samuel Obiri, an independent researcher, we wrapped all the discussions we had with the different ministries and stakeholders. Mr Obiri explained us what is the relationship between the scientific and the legal as well as the business sides of the oil exploitation in Ghana. We discussed the level of oil spill preparedness and the expected involvement of fishermen in the event of an oil spill.
An important observation was that

  1. fishermen are currently the most at loss with the development of the oil industry and
  2. if an oil spill was to happen, they would be on the frontline to clean up and suffer the heaviest health, mental, environmental social and economic damages. 

This is also what I experienced when working on the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We then pondered:

  • What are the biggest risks?
  • Consequently, what are the most valuable data sets to be found?

Samuel Obiri has published the most comprehensive measurements of oil pollution in Ghana that I could find, compiled here in a pdf [6mb].

Networking at Hub Accra

It was great to have a sneak preview of the burgeoning startup culture in Ghana. We met a lot of cool people at the freshly built co-working space in Accra. Just to mention a few:


In a very short amount of time, we have been capable of meeting most of the key stakeholders of the oil and the fishing industry, from ministry representatives to local fishermen, from University researchers to independent environmental consulting agencies. The challenges that Ghana is facing in terms of environmental impact of the oil industry, the apparent lack of preparedness to oil spill, the lack of environmental data about water quality and fish stock suggests that Protei could really make a difference in Ghana. The low cost, open source, modular, transparent nature of Protei appealed to all the people we talked to. There is therefore a case for coming back to Ghana with Protei.
The main difficulty now is the definition of a strategy for raising funds to address these issues.
If we run a pilot, which stakeholders shall we involve?

  • Fishermen
  • Academia: University of Ghana, ASESHI, OUWA, AITI, foreign Universities
  • Politics: EPA, Ministries of Food & Agriculture & Technology, Fisheries 
  • Non-Profit: KITE, Local fishermen associations
  • Diplomacy (as we are a foreign company)
  • Military (permission and some deployment infrastructure)

And the criteria for us to determine the feasability of such pilot would be :

  • What: Relevancy and urgency of the topic
  • How: What Protei can do well and add significant value to
  • How much: What is affordable and profitable for all the stakeholders

We are now in the phase of “Pilot Proposal Development” and we are happy to involve anyone that feel they can contribute to the discussion.

Read more

20130410 Protei wants to work in Ghana

Protei had a great time in Ghana, many productive meetings.
We want to come back to Ghana and work with many locals initiatives.