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Project: Henlight—an egglightened way to combat global food insecurity.

Business / Social Enterprise, Agricultural Production / Productivity, Global
Davis, California, United States

Our Mission

Team Foodisclosure cares deeply about raising the appraisal of surplus food, increasing the efficacy of nutrition and food systems education, and spurring economic development in innovative ways. We hope to address the discrepancies of knowledge and resources in our global food system. "Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try." Atul Gawande

Emily Sin researches the sustainability of raw agricultural material sourcing for the University of California, Davis. She cares about the distribution of food and the supply chains that govern access to it on a global scale, employing geographic information systems to better understand the nature of food discrepancies in the developed and developing worlds. In participating in the 2013 Thought For Food Challenge, she hopes to build a product or application that will aid in bridging the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” of the worldwide food supply.

Lorena Galvan is committed to increasing the quality of health care and education around the world. The 2013 Thought for Food Challenge provides an ideal opportunity for her to work with a creative team to provide appropriate education of food production, international consumption and nutrition through the use of self sustaining resources to ensure affordable nutritional food is secure for nine billion people by 2050.

Edward Silva is interested in the nexus between agriculture and food, and the efforts aimed towards reaching a level worth sustaining. He envisions a world where food is a secure asset for people, which will impact other factors that can lead to better lives. The complex social, economic, scientific, and logistical challenges that come with creating food security is an area he believes can truly benefit from innovative, interdisciplinary approaches that are not afraid to bring together novel and antiques ideas in a way that serves to catalyze progress towards making more secure what is a growing global hunger.

We believe our team, and the international, scientific, social, educational, and economic backgrounds and experiences we collectively bring, grant us the tools to develop well-rounded solutions to food insecurity, and build the proper networks and mentors to help us achieve it.
We are participating in this challenge because we believe it will give us the opportunity to think through complex ideas, develop potential solutions, and ultimately help build a community of diverse, knowledgeable students who will grow into professionals who are conscious of food security long beyond the deadlines of this challenge. We want to build a tool, resource, and/or greater opportunity that aims to raise the appraisal of food and in turn secure greater access to it.

Emily Sin

U of California, Davis, United States

Edward Silva

U of California, Davis, United States of America

Lorena Galvan

U of Oregon, California

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Project Idea Submitted!

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Henlight—an egglightened way to combat global food insecurity.

A solar-powered way to stimulate egg production!


Similar to humans, chickens are more productive during longer daylight hours. Unlike humans however, chickens will innately dedicate these daylight hours to lay more eggs and produce more meat. From the perspective of a chicken farmer, this can be extremely advantageous in the spring and summer months, and limiting when the amounts of daylight hours decrease in fall and winter. Our solution is to provide a small solar-powered light to small scale chicken operations to stimulate egg production and chicken growth by supplementing natural daylight hours to ameliorate shorter days and seasonal variations. By using lights from a renewable energy source, and leveraging our lighting expertise through our partners at the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies, we can help to increase the appraisal of chickens year round, develop the supply and access to the nourishing food provided by chickens and their eggs more consistently, increase fluid capital for families and owners of small chicken operations through the winter and fall, and utilize the natural biological process of a multi-functional animal for the positive benefits to the human condition.

Our idea to solve a part of food security is to use use a small, solar-powered LED light called Henlight to extend a chicken’s perceived hours of daylight after the natural stimulation of the sun’s light has ended for the day. Biologically chickens respond to light stimulation by producing more eggs and meat. By using light to extend the amount of stimulation chickens receive, farmers can gain greater value per individual chicken more consistently throughout the variable seasons of the year, thereby securing more access to food in a naturally reproducing, energy efficient, sustainable, and financially viable way.

Henlight is a solar powered, single module lights developed by our colleagues at the University of California, Davis around 2007 as a winning entry for a competition seeking to face the challenge of insufficient lighting in developing countries. Our colleagues at the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies have expertise in this area and have given us access to use their fully built units for testing and modification to find the optimal solar-powered lighting solution for poultry. The light’s strong LED ability to automatically turn on the light when the panel is not receiving sun, store power, and detach from the solar panel are all factors that make this light a great and adaptable product.

Due to logistical errors and poor planning, what turned out to be an incredibly functional product that was built to last and easily maintained, never made it to market. This last year, Edward Silva and a another colleague undertook the distribution of this light in rural Zambia, and were successful in attaining positive user feedback with regards to using the light in households. However, with a lack of entrepreneurs to sell the light, it was not distributed in its desired capacity. However, we have the advantage of a specific and needy market of small scale poultry farmers and potential partnering organizations. This advantage should make it easier to serve, train, and incite excitement because of the direct benefits that will result from greater poultry production. We hope to turn this great product into a solution for food security that can create mass awareness, incite social change, maintain longevity, and disrupt expectations.

For a chicken to produce an egg, and in turn food, many things must occur. Of those, one of the most crucial factors is chickens must receive roughly 12 hours of light per day for 15+ days before they will begin producing eggs. As the days get shorter, chickens biologically begin “closing up shop,” and stop producing eggs. This may leave a chicken, and the farmer’s capital, unproductive for 4-6 months through the fall and winter months. For small scale chicken farmers, this can pose a big problem, especially if they are already having difficulties accessing nutritional food or income. However, by keeping a hen’s light exposure more consistent throughout the year with Henlight, farmers can keep their chickens producing year round, thus increasing the amount of food provided to a family. We believe our solution can relieve this issue.

This method for increasing egg and poultry production on small scale operations using solar power can ultimately create more food using fewer resources than normally expected. This will help to create greater year round value and supply in poultry raising for small scale farmers in emerging markets, and in turn develop entrepreneurial activities around poultry farming.

Additionally, we believe that with many of the other challenges facing our globe, such as climate change, soil degradation, over-use of synthetic fertilizers, obesity, food spoilage, and land loss to both more agriculture and urban areas alike, chickens will play a valuable role. Upfront this sounds seemingly absurd but consider the following: poultry is the second most consumed livestock meat on the globe, chickens have a digestive system that does not produce the dangerous greenhouse gas methane, poultry is generally a leaner meat and an excellent source of protein, and chickens are naturally scavengers for harmful insects and weeds, helping to create nutrient rich fertilizer for soils and rid them of harmful insects. These aspects of poultry clearly point to the many benefits that occur with a wider use of this livestock. Not to mention, because of how quick chickens reproduce (a fertilized egg only needs 21 days to go from the “yolk egg”, to a living breathing, chick) the return on one’s investment is reached far quicker than other livestock. It is for these reasons and more that we believe chickens are a vital part in reaching real-time solutions for pressing issues like food insecurity.

Who: who is our target audience?
Small scale farmers who are food insecure part of the year due to fluctuations in poultry
Entrepreneurs seeking to increase the value and size of their poultry production
Existing networks of small scale chicken operations and agricultural extension programs
Existing foundations dedicated to social development with agricultural livestock and/or solar energy.

Henlight can be easily modified into existing chicken coops, placed outdoors if chickens are kept overnight it a confined area, and can be set up indoors overnights as long as the panel is exposed to the sun. Additionally, Henlight can be adapted for use of families as an indoor light or flashlight if necessary. The small panel and easy to move light can be rigged to illuminate most any chicken housing operation. The light can generally cover a large amount of space depending on its height. We are designing our approach to be as least invasive to the livelihoods of people as possible, but to help engage them in these productive methods.

Geographically, we are looking for areas areas which may face more varying daylengths and seasons than regions on the equator. Generally these areas hover around the southern and northern tropic lines, including areas such as Brazil, India, China, Europe, and the U.S. With our teams agricultural connections in India and Brazil, and of course in the U.S., we see those three markets as potential test points for our product.

International large scale commercial poultry production has grown greatly from heavily researched methods to increase egg production. However these methods are practiced at very large scales. Our system is innovative in the renewable energy source of the light, the method for distribution of the light, and the small scale operations we are targeting, which is where we believe we can have the greatest immediate impact on food security.
We believe we can take this idea to use small-scale solar lights for the purpose of chicken coops through our connection to the Program for International Energy Technology (PIET), the original light developers here at the University of California, Davis, who have some expertise in designing and building these lights, and deploy them to different markets in need of such a product. We can leverage their expertise and use their fully built units for testing and modification to find the optimal solar-powered lighting solution for poultry. Our immediate team’s expertise in avian sciences, agricultural development, business development, and health care to really guide this product into the hands of the people who can really benefit from its use, and in turn move away from food insecurity.

We have developed immediate and long term goals we plan to execute if granted the opportunity:

-Further develop our proof of concept and begin testing.
-Conduct outreach to the networks we have seeded, and develop specific beta markets to test our product beyond Davis, California.
-Become better oriented with large scale commercial poultry operations.
-Develop curriculum to be used in training sessions for farmers wanting to try Henlight.
-Partner with organizations that deploy students to do development work, training them on entrepreneurship and food security alleviation.

Long term
-Incite social change and mass awareness by bringing greater value to an animal that can improve the condition of food security with many other beneficial results.
-Further develop our Henlight to meet the specific needs different markets may request.
-Disrupt the status quo of large scale animal production by creating greater value for farmers and families raising poultry and eggs.
-Expand our areas of services and become a hub to help spur innovation in food security related to using poultry as a solution.


Team Objectives

  • Increase egg production in small poultry operations by use of renewable energy.  
  • Reduce inconsistent flock production during months with shorter days,  
  • Enhance familial nutrition and poultry capital through increased access to eggs.  
  • Train others in effective ways to tackle food security with poultry.  

Process, Ideation, and Creation

Edward Silva
May 20, 2013

Thank you!!

Thank you for the opportunity to travel to Berlin, and more so for the opportunity to create an impact on food security! We are truly, honestly, and whole-heatedly grateful for the opportunity!

-Emily, Lorena, & Edward

Edward Silva
May 7, 2013

Chickens: a solution for food security?

Edward Silva
May 7, 2013

Program for International Energy Technologies

Check out this great department that we are partnering with. Part of food security is developing the appropriate technology and energy to which can help people every where preserve, harvest, and process food in better ways. We believe this partnership can help us extremely.

Edward Silva
May 2, 2013

Check out the huge market and impact of eggs! This is in Vietnam during a trip with FFA.

Edward Silva
May 2, 2013

Food is on the plate of investors!

Check out this article talking about the new up and coming foods that are bringing about big interest from people in the investment community.

Edward Silva
April 17, 2013

What an impact NOURISHING food can have!

This is incredible to hear actual success through more access and knowledge around nutritional food!

Edward Silva
April 16, 2013

Check out this great resource about a paradigm shift in agriculture and small farmers from the FAO!

Edward Silva
April 15, 2013

Only 17 plant species provide 90% of human kinds food. We are missing out on so much!

Check out this article. It surely goes to show that food security is in large part about finding the right, most nourishing food to grow. Effective and most useful calories is the name of the game.

Edward Silva
April 15, 2013

UC Davis Post Harvest Technology

With food waste being such a large component of food security, it is extremely relevant that work is being done around post-harvest. Check out the efforts at the UC Davis Post Harvest Technology department.

Edward Silva
April 14, 2013

Land use and understanding different landscapes is a big issue in agriculture, and food security. Check out this innovative use of land!

Edward Silva
April 14, 2013

Planted orchards for lumber supply? If it keeps native forests alive and farmland producing, then is it a good idea to aid in food security? Hmmm...

Edward Silva
April 14, 2013

Brazil: Food importer to exporter-A story of agricultural collaboration...

This is a great story being told as we speak. Due to many things, but one of which is cross country collaboration and education (Brazil is in the top 3 for sending out students for educational exchange), Brazil has turned into an agricultural powerhouse. Although many issues still exist, their ability to feed their people has increased dramatically through agricultural innovation and proper application. A lesson for other countries?

Edward Silva
April 12, 2013

Agroforestry: Can you tell me what is growing here? Integrating food and crops can solve many issues in food security in both large and small scales!

Edward Silva
April 12, 2013

ATTRA: Disseminating research into use by the world!

The idea of searching through food and agriculture relevant research to find the appropriate and practical uses in the field is a big challenge I think is very important in connecting universities with their goal to help society. ATTRA does this well, and finding ways to use appropriate technology to solve our larger issues is a big obstacles and way that universities, society, and organizations like this can come together.