What do greenhouses and gas stations have in common? Ask young Armenian entrepreneurs

The Information Technology (IT) sector in Armenia is taking off in a big way and the future looks bright. But what about other technology sectors? For instance, Armenia had a long tradition in engineering in a number of fields such as electronics, semiconductors and industrial computing. Not long ago, Armenia was known for its renowned scientists, but since the independence Armenian science looked like a lost art.

To counter this notion a little bit, iTechnology.am, the new voice for Armenian technology, wanted to bring you more examples of grassroots technology being developed right now in Armenia. Our goal is to counter the negative news flow by showing some of the amazing things happening on the ground in Armenia. Also, our hope is to connect people and businesses interested in the development of Armenian tech.

So here is the story of Innovative Greenhouse. We were thrilled by both the efforts and achievements of these young entrepreneurs and look forward to bringing you more stories:

The team: formed in May 2012 with six young innovators: Yeghishe Hovhannisyan, Gor Rustamyan, Tigran Gasparyan, Lena Hovhannisyan, Arsen Araqelyan and Khachik Manasyan.

Their focus: innovation in agriculture.

The essence of the idea: Attack the main problem faced by Armenian greenhouse operators. How to heat greenhouses in a completely innovative and energy efficient way, given that energy (mainly gas for heat) is 60-70% of the monthly cost of running a greenhouse, according to the team.

The idea in detail: Greenhouses in Armenian provide critical supply of agricultural goods, specially in the harsh, winter season. The main constraint to their growth is the prohibitive cost of energy. The Innovative Greenhouse team came up with a way to reduce these energy expenses by 50-60%. The costs to build such greenhouse are approximately USD 7,000-8000 according to the team.

A new source of heat: Gas stations use compressors to pump gas. During operation, these compressors heat up and need to be cooled down (usually by the ventilation of cool air). The air that passes through the compressors absorbs the heat and this hot air is usually wasted. This source of hot air can be deployed to heat greenhouses if they are built up to 100 meters from gas stations.

Here is a schematic design of the idea:

An idea is not enough. We all know that having an unprecedented idea is not enough for success. The young team knew that the path to a marketable product was long and arduous. So they joined the Smart Country for Smart People initiative, implemented jointly by the Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE), RAU Business Incubator, Eurasia International University and Microsoft Innovation Center Armenia. The team participated in a number of training courses, obtained consulting support and advisory. Due to these activities, the Innovative Greenhouse became aware of the Digitec Business Forum 2012 and decided to participate. The participation in Digitec Business Forum was possible due to support of UITE and USAID and opened new opportunities for the team. They achieved recognition, expanded their network of contacts and received advice from the professionals operating in the sector. According to one of the cofounders, Yeghishe Hovhannisyan, people who were interested in their project were not just visitors, but were people working in related sectors, which is one of the milestones to help bring this project to market.

At this stage, the project had reached a more mature/professional level and it was noticed. During the event, the president of the country, Serj Sarkisyan approached the booth and began talking to the team members asking detailed questions. The interest of the political figures and famous businessmen towards the team had good promotional impact. It also worked as an incentive for the team to believe that their project can surely make difference in the development of rural economies in Armenia and throughout the world.

During Digitec Expo 2012 the project received four business proposals which are under negotiation.
But wait. These young entrepreneurs didn’t stop.They wanted more. The team participated in the Startup Cup Armenia contest and obtained third place. The prize? 200,000 AMD that were used to cover project expenses.

Now the team decided it was the right time to enter the international arena. The team won the B2B nomination in GITI Expo 2012 organized in Tbilisi, Georgia. Simultaneously, other members of the team were presenting the project at the “Exchange for Experience” international conference-contest in Warsaw, Poland where they also obtained FIRST PLACE!
The results of such efforts has multiple motivations common among entrepreneurs: (I) desire to improve society, (II help the environment, (III) create a better and prosperous future and (IV) a deep desire to succeed.

More examples are needed. Innovative Greenhouse is one small example of grassroots innovation happening in Armenia right now. Young innovators are not exceptions in Armenia. During each event directed at discovering innovative ideas, the organizers actively seek to unearth young entrepreneurs and help unleash their entrepreneurial spirit. This is most salient especially in the sectors of innovative and information technologies and Armenia is becoming a regional leader. A true renaissance of Armenian technological and entrepreneurial aptitudes, happening from the ground up.

How can you help? You can help in many ways: (I) contact the entrepreneurs to hear more about their ideas and how to bring them to market, (II) help them with ideas, (III) provide funding, (IV) provide technical expertise, etc.

You can also post comments and suggestions below to start putting ideas in motion…