Dazzling, shiny and trendy: characteristics so ubiquitous in every tech product today that you could easily forget technology is, in essence, a survival tool made with thunder-infused stones.
From pleasing our inner nomad with the comforts of modernity to improving the quality of life of millions in developing areas, new technologies have many possible uses. The great expanses of untamed outdoors in the Midwest have inspired many of its startups to use clever technology for better off-the-grid living.
Sun Buckets is an Illinois-based company that set out to solve the problem of cooking without fuel, electricity and emissions. Their stoves store sunlight and release it in a controlled manner, providing enough heat to boil water for six hours after only one hour of charge.
A high-temperature, indoor-safe solution that works even at night, the Sun Buckets are enabling families in Haiti, Africa and India to cook at essentially no cost. Not a lousy addition to that forest cabin by the Great Lakes, either.
LuminAID makes portable inflatable lanterns. The Chicago entrepreneurs offer solar- and USB-powered lighting devices that are waterproof, resistant and long-lasting. A 7-hour charge yields up to 30 hours of light with a brightness equivalent to that of a light bulb.
Versatility and social responsibility are ingrained in this startup. Their product offering features camping lanterns and color-changing pool lights, which have made possible for them to offer home lighting solutions with free-shipping for impoverished homes across the world.
Kinosol developed the Orenda dehydrator from their headquarters in Ames, Iowa. Food that would otherwise go to waste in the absence of a refrigerator or similar appliance can last for weeks after a desiccation process, a feat achieved by Kinosol in the greenest and most economical way.
The portable, solar-powered device is the ultimate addition to a self-sustaining, ecologically conscious existence. However, Kinosol’s affordable product also makes it possible for low-income communities in remote areas to add value to their agricultural products, from dried fruit to macadamia nuts – and even grasshoppers.
Camp Native is essentially Airbnb for the outdoor enthusiast. A vast database of campgrounds, RV parks and lodges, ranging from basic facilities to luxury glamping, makes a nature getaway easier than ever. The South Dakota startup has grown to include 12,000 properties in the US.
Honorable mention goes to SunToWater, a drinking water generator that can make a large house self-sufficient – even in the desert-like conditions of their headquarters in Texas.
Displaying an exciting mix of social responsibility and innovation, the Midwest is fostering a diverse startup roster that is providing flexible solutions to some of our most basic problems. We look forward to discovering more promising concepts as the region continues to demonstrate and realize its potential.