Harvest Product Blog

By Nithya Menon
October 27, 2021
Designed to seamlessly guide energy companies from the beginning to the end of running profitable energy grids.

When it comes to deploying remote, off-grid infrastructure, the management and maintenance of the assets can be the biggest challenge. On top of trying to sustainably run remote maintenance, add remote billing, fieldwork, and portfolio management, and we’ve got a tangled mess of software tools and a lot of wasted time and money.

It’s our mission to streamline this whole process. Our Harvest platform is designed to seamlessly guide energy companies from the beginning to the end of running profitable energy grids, including faster deployments, lower operational costs, and rising revenues. As our product manager, I’m here to walk you through this journey and see some of the cool ways customers are leveraging our tools so far!

Step 1: Signup, plan, and install networks

In the midst of political turmoil, our Haiti pilot with Alina Enerji launched earlier this year and the Harvest platform facilitated the normally inefficient process of collecting field data, planning and budgeting the network, and managing the install.

The Harvest Mobile app enabled Alina Enerji to collect baseline data from 70 interested homes in the pilot village. The data piped directly into the network planner and helped our partners optimally select the pilot homes based on budget and the number of small and large systems that had been procured. And then Harvest Mobile supported the field team to quickly scan pods and assign them to the 34 selected households for the pilot installation. The entire installation took less than 1 week!

Step 2: Remote monitoring and automated problem detection

Once pods are installed, Harvest enables detailed remote monitoring for each pod.

 

Harvest then uses this data to optimize maintenance. Smart algorithms automatically detect and prioritize issues, and weather data and predictive modeling warn against outages.

For our Nigerian partners, their main concern was people bypassing controllers to get free power, so our power theft detection was key. We built Harvest to interpret imbalances in power and unexpected sensor readings and throw an alert directly to the customer if there is a likely theft. For our partner GVE, there hasn’t been any theft detected in the initial pilot and as they scale-out, these algorithms give them increased confidence and trust.

Step 3: Locally managed operations and maintenance

Once issues are detected, Harvest makes it possible for local agents to run the O&M. In our project with the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the community completely manages the network, guided by automated insights from Harvest. Considering it takes many hours to reach these communities, locally driven maintenance means MME isn’t required to send staff to the site, resulting in lower costs and quicker problem solving and additionally builds trust and jobs with the community.

Agents are notified of new tasks and can prioritize and action them immediately. They know exactly which houses and even which cables need fixing. Harvest Mobile is fully translated into local languages for every market we enter. In Cambodia, with very low English usage, the Khmer translation is essential for usability.

Step 4: Collect payments

Reliable and affordable payment collection is crucial but often challenging when communities are remote and hard to access. In our first pilot in the Philippines, the island of San Isidro is several boat rides away from any big towns and our partners couldn’t regularly travel such great distances to collect cash. Instead, they trained and employed a woman in the community who uses the Harvest Mobile app to collect payments, ensure households can top up their credit whenever needed and deposits cashback to the grid owner on a monthly basis. Agents can collect cash in remote communities with full traceability, and back in the office, management has visibility of their incoming revenues to make reconciliation smooth and reliable. 

In communities where there is greater mobile banking, agents can digitally transfer cash much faster and households themselves can use their digital wallets to pay. But in places where mobile money infrastructure is still developing, this agent model is quick to set up, empowers community members, and makes it possible to deploy no matter the remoteness of the site. 

Step 5: Track portfolio returns

Many Harvest and Harvest Mobile feature target the field teams to help grids run effectively. But at a high level, investors can also leverage the platform for important financial performance data. One such key metric is “ARPU”, or average revenue per user. As this number goes up, the grid achieves greater profitability and a quicker return on investment. On Harvest, operations managers and investors can track ARPU over time and use this data in conjunction with the utilization charts, which show excess energy in the network, to motivate the right interventions or scaleup.

Overview of Harvest

Step 6: Appliance Leasing

One of the tools to increase ARPU is using Harvest’s appliance leasing feature. Harvest takes care of deducting daily lease payments until the appliance is paid off, bundling appliance repayment with energy billing. Our partners use Harvest to help them finance fridges, rice cookers, blenders, water pumps, and more.

In Cambodia, our partners see that households who lease appliances consume the most energy and bring in over 70% of their total energy revenue, not even including the revenue from appliance lease payments themselves. For the communities, they see the greatest benefit from electrification once they also have access to productive appliances, so it’s a win-win.

Track the progress of individual leases and monitor all appliances sold via Harvest. Sell appliances and grow demand from Harvest Mobile

Step 7: Upcoming integrations

Many of our existing and potential partners expressed the need to deploy multiple types of energy infrastructure – ac grids, inverters, charging stations, etc… Some want to use Okra Mesh grids for more remote communities and traditional AC mini-grids for more urban, dense communities, and others are locked into different technologies in different regions based on regulations, subsidies, and tenders. In any case, managing a portfolio of assets across multiple platforms is clunky and painstaking.

Over the next few quarters, we will be launching the first AC meter integration into Harvest, to visualize and manage AC assets with the same UX as Okra Mesh grids. In addition to performance monitoring, gain the ability to easily consolidate and compare revenues and performances between both types of grids. In the field, install and manage AC meters with the same simplicity via Harvest Mobile.

We see a bright future ahead bringing in a range of smart grid and appliance technologies into our platform. If this is of interest to you, please let us know!

All these features were born out of working closely with our customers, understanding their needs, and addressing their pain points, and we look forward to continuing learning and rolling out new, high-impact features day by day. Have an idea for a feature that could be a game-changer for you? Hit me up!

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Nithya Menon is an engineering graduate from Harvey Mudd College who has spent her career developing technology targeted towards empowering marginalized and developing communities worldwide. She has been pivotal in designing Okra's key power-sharing algorithms, IoT firmware, and grid management software - and now drives the direction and strategy of Okra's technology as Product Development Lead.

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