Strawberries will be bursting out all over the world, thanks to an environmental initiative that has given a young Serbian business a leg-up. Strawberry Energy, a business that designs and markets solar-powered mobile chargers, is building on an EU accolade to plant roots at home and bring clean energy to Africa and Asia. One small step in planting a Strawberry Tree in Belgrade marks a giant leap for the business and for the future of clean energy.
“Now we are installing our public solar chargers in Serbia and the Balkan region, but my main efforts are aimed on our next step: bringing solar charging possibilities to rural areas of Africa and India,’ Strawberry Energy CEO Miloš Milisavljević told W!LD RooSTeR. “In these areas there in no electric grid and mobile phones are their only connection to the world.
“After the European award for our innovation and a widely viewed report from the BBC, we received numerous requests to install solar chargers in those areas – and we are putting out best efforts into searching for ways to install our first stystems there in 2012.”
Inter-continental expansion is a major step for any business. But if anyone can achieve it, then it is Strawberry Energy. Early this year, Belgrade’s Strawberry Energybeat numerous more established businesses to scoop the Consumer Awardat Sustainable Energy Week 2011, a major international clean energy competition run by the European Union. Their significant achievement was all the greater as theirs was the only business from beyond the EU borders – and the only team made up entirely of full-time students.
At that time, there was just one working prototype of the Strawberry Tree, as they are called, situated in Obrenovac, an innocuous town outside Belgrade. Since then, the business has attracted international interest, prime ministerial endorsement and worldwide development opportunities, as Strawberry Energy’s founder Miloš Milisavljević said. “I am responsible for company development, finding new opportunities, entering new markets and supervising product development and production. I can tell you, we have big dreams, we have global ambitions, but we also have the ambition and drive to know that we can achieve them.”
Thanks to support from Serbia’s leading mobile brand mt:s, the first of this new crop of Strawberry Trees has been installed in Belgrade, and a further batch of solar chargers should be sprouting up across Belgrade before spring 2012. Visitors to Vuk Karadzić cultural centre, near the main student thoroughfare, can now recharge their mobile phone, tablet or mp3 player, free and courtesy of the sun.
“It is not often that a group of twenty-somethings gets a chance to change their city and make it a better place to live in,’ said Miloš. “Our vision is to bring at least one renewable energy source to every home in Serbia. But first, we want to make solar power free for everyone. Using the Strawberry Tree to recharge their devices, people in Belgrade will have a piece of sun in their pockets.”
Branko Redujko, CEO of Telekom Srbija, whose mt:s brand has partnered with this Belgrade installation, said: “We strongly believe that the responsibility of leading companies is to support the best that our country possesses, and surely that is the young talent. Professionals and innovators such as Strawberry Energy are supported by our company because their public solar charger combines the values that support Telekom Serbia: talent, work, innovation and environmental responsibility.”
Next month, Strawberry Energyand Elektrovojvodina will plant a Strawberry Tree in Serbia’s second city, Novi Sad, with further installations scheduled in Serbia in coming months. After that, the team plan to roll out a new design in cities across Europe, Africa and Asia. The current Strawberry Tree is five-metres high and can be used to charge most mobile devices. After converting the sun’s energy into electricity, it is stored until required, meaning it can be used even on cloudy days or at night. Up to 16 people can plug in at any one time and, best of all, it is free to use.
|The Strawberry Energy Team, Rewarded by the City of Belgrade|