Interview: Dgrid (2020)

Interview of Eugene Faison, CEO of Dgrid by Sohaib Elbebny on August, 25, 2020.

Company Overview

DGrid provides renewable energy solutions that expand businesses, enhance livelihoods, and empower communities by developing a refrigerated supply chain for temperature-sensitive products in emerging markets

Key Takeaways

  • The same technology concept can produce different products and services.
  • A great idea might not come at the right time, but keeping the idea and implementing it later can be powerful.

What is currently the focus of Dgrid?

We were focused on growing the company. We are developing our footprint, our business, and our market. We pivoted from making our solar cool cube, making that, and a solar milk chiller, a solar ice maker. And another new product is called a motor chiller. It’s a motorcycle chiller. It sits in stainless steel on the back of a motorcycle that’s solar-powered. We’re doing that in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

After the COVID shutdown, we tried to make solar morgues—refrigeration morgues for bodies.

We were able to get some interest, but we haven’t made a sale because it’s too many bodies and they are stored in refrigerated trucks that run on diesel. So we decided to see if we could sell our products to the food pantry business — the people who are providing food for those out of work need refrigeration.

How did you start Dgrid?

I’ve always had my own company. Dgrid is my third or fourth company.

When I was traveling worldwide, I kept seeing intermittent electricity, intermittent refrigeration and decided that to do something about that.

We built a solar-powered thermionic refrigeration system in 1988. after we got a royalty-free license from NASA, it was a license to commercialize the space shuttle’s heating and cooling system. And what we did was we formed a partnership with the Ohio State University Technology Center. 

That works very well, but the solar was too expensive back in 1988. 

So in 2016, we looked back around and realized that solar had dropped in its cost, and it was much more efficient.

We’re-prototyped and made the Solar Cool Cube more efficient and modular and expandable and went to market with that, and that’s how we developed the Solar Cool Cube.

How did you start selling the product?

One of our members was at a meeting at the Namibian Embassy. There was a gentleman there who had a farm. He was the Dean of Agriculture for this college that had a farm. And he said that he wanted to talk because he wanted to buy a cold storage facility and told my associate to call him immediately. And we went over, and then we sold the university our first system.