On November 19, MaRS Mornings welcomed Jason Gray, the co-founder and CFO of SunFarmer. Jason didn’t start out to be an entrepreneur, but by following his interests and playing to his strengths, he evolved into one. Starting off his career with Cargill, Jason learned lots about executive management, but couldn’t find passion in the work. He moved to MNP, working with diverse clients before moving to Sun Edison, where he was the first Canadian employee of the young US startup. Through SunEdison, Jason had his first taste of startup life and was finally in a sector he cared deeply about.
After helping SunEdison grow rapidly, Jason saw an opportunity to combine his passion for renewable energy and desire for a startup culture through tackling energy poverty, a massive international issue. Over 2.4 billion people, or one-third of our global population, do not have reliable access to electricity. In excess of one billion people use health services without electricity, sometimes to treat the very respiratory illnesses caused by their reliance on wood, charcoal or animal waste to cook food.
SunFarmer was founded in 2013 with the goal to provide reliable and affordable energy to communities around the world. They currently have offices in Toronto, New York and Kathmandu. SunFarmer focuses on those areas of agriculture, health education and community infrastructure that are currently limited by a lack of reliable energy. Over the last two years, they have completed 75 projects (with 200 more project MOUs in place), 73 charging stations and over 1,000 solar lights.
As Jason shared his story, he repeatedly came back to four key messages:
Solar energy continues to get cheaper, while diesel is increasingly challenging to affordably access and, in many places of the world, an electricity grid is many years away, if at all. Jason and SunFarmer have learned invaluable lessons through their first projects and the company’s business model continues to evolve as the team finds better ways to provide reliable electricity to nations such as Nepal.
SunFarmer is a registered charity. If you’d like to give the gift of electricity this holiday season, you can do so here.
Photo credit: SunFarmer