Australian start-up hopes to use smart software to power the 1.2 billion people living off-grid


Supported by the UN, USAID and DFAT, the forum awarded Okra the “most investment ready business” ahead of a variety of large scale solar, wind and biomass projects from over 7 countries. Okra’s innovative technology uses cutting edge software & hardware to bring power to the 1.2 billion people in the world who aren’t connected to electricity.

More than 30% of generated power from off-grid solar home systems is never used. Using Okra’s innovative ‘grid-in-a-box’, households can be connected together in a ‘smart-grid’. Once connected, smart software activates to redistribute wasted solar power to where it is needed. Power from an Okra network costs about half as much as it does from standalone solar home systems, shaping it to be the most affordable electrification solution for off-grid villages around the world.

“Conceptually, it’s common sense. There are people paying through the roof for dirty and expensive diesel and kerosene, meanwhile their neighbour has perfectly good solar power that’s being wasted because there’s nowhere to store it. Our software simply measures where there’s excess power and pushes it to someone can get some use from it.”

With R&D led by engineers from Australia’s top universities (UTS and University of Sydney) and technology startups (Bueno & Seeing Machines), Okra’s smart-grids are at the cutting edge of technology, drawing interest from a range of impact and high-tech investors.

Almost all of the 1.2 billion people who live off-grid don’t have bank accounts. Leveraging recent developments in mobile money technology the solar sharing model enables households to pay using mobile credit. Solar generating households profit from their excess generation, while those who purchase power get affordable access, sometimes for the first

time ever. In both scenarios, Okra starts building a credit history for these households which leads to additional services such as low fee based lending and remittances in the future.

After raising money through Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible and being grant funded by SNV (Netherlands Development Agency), Okra has successfully piloted their technology in Cambodia. Okra’s development has sparked excitement among investors, which was evident when the judges (3 of the four being from investment funds) deemed Okra to be the most investment ready Clean Energy business in Asia, despite stiff competition from large scale solar, wind and biomass projects amongst others.

Okra is currently looking to raise $1.2M of funding for their seed round. “If you want to jump on board and help unlock the potential of 1.2 billion people, then get in touch! We’re looking to make impact, and make money while we’re at it!’ CEO Afnan Hannan says.