WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The creation of a solar powered food dehydrator has received national acclaim.
Five years after starting his business, Dr. Klein Ileleji has been recognized by the US Small Business Administration as one of the nation’s leading small business exporters.
JUA Technologies International – a company that aims to make food drying easy, safe and sustainable – was recently named Exporter of the Year in Indiana and the Great Lakes region.
In 2016, Dr. Klein and Dr. Reiko Ileleji co-founded JUA Technologies International, which produces the Dehytray, a solar-powered food dehydrator.
The idea behind the product intentionally came from research Dr. Klein Ileleji conducted with the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University, trying to address food insecurity in developing countries.
Through his research, he discovered that there was a need to develop an affordable method to dry fruit that had been harvested before it spoiled.
Klein Ileleji took his findings back to Purdue and created Dehytray, and began selling his product to farmers in Asia and Africa.
“I created a dehydrator that encompasses all kinds of foods,” Klein Ileleji said. “It’s small enough for the main crop, but it’s bigger for the produce, and that’s how it all started. Once the technology is developed, the question is how do you bring it to people. And that’s where I started the business.
Programs offered at Purdue University, such as the Purdue Foundry Program, provide a platform for startups to experiment and develop future-to-market plans.
“Fortunately, I developed the technology at a time when Purdue was really growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus,” Klein Ileleji said. next level.”
“I knew it was going to be very difficult if I left that idea to investors, because it’s in Africa, and a lot of people will say the market isn’t there. So, being an immigrant from Nigeria and understanding childhood issues, I decided to take it upon myself, along with my partner, my wife, co-founder Dr (Reiko) Ileleji, we started the company together .
Although Purdue helped the Ilelejis grow their business, the pair encountered several problems once they tried to sell their product internationally, particularly trying to hide international currencies, as well as developing a strong presence in several countries.
The pair contacted the US Small Business Administration for help, and the SBA offered them courses on how to sell their products in international markets.
Ileleji received the awards at a press conference at the Purdue Convergence Center on May 5, where Andrew Reinke, chairman of the SBA’s Indiana District Export Council, shared a few words about the Ileleji business.
“The product itself and the company are unique because they were not first identified after the domestic market. And there was a reason for that. Normally, you must do this to become a participant in the export accelerator (program). But in this case, Klein and Reiko knew that the best market for their product was developing countries, not developed countries. Where food insecurity is a real problem and electricity availability is scarce,” Reinke said.
Although Klein and Reiko were very honored to receive the awards and recognition from SBA, they mentioned that they were still relatively early in the growth of their business.
“We only sold a drop in the ocean. The market is huge, we are talking about billions of farmers and we have only sold thousands. So, first of all, the market for this technology is huge and we would like this technology to be accessible to any farmer who wants to have it, which are millions of them.
“We also have several technologies in development already developed as part of this. In fact, we have four other technologies, solar-powered dehydrators in a variety of shapes and forms, that do a variety of things, being developed by the company. »
“This technology is not only for developing countries, but also for the United States… We have the local American market to develop and we would like the home gardener to try it in the United States”
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at Npadilla@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.