The single greatest barrier to escaping poverty in Africa is the lack of roads.
Over 600 million people, living on less than $1.25 per day, grow the food they eat and if possible they grow extra crops to pay for clothes, schooling, medical expenses and simple hardware such as hoes, buckets and cooking pots. The lack of decent roads, however, means these small-holder farmers pay as much as 75% of the revenue from these extra crops for transportation. Haulage costs for these low-income people can be 20 times greater than the costs in the United States.
Wings4Farmers intends to free people from poor roads with air freight services for their crops priced on par with road costs in the United States. To do this, we are developing an aircraft with ultra-low operating costs called a levopter.
A levopter is a wind-powered airplane. It is not a glider. Gliders are at the mercy of unreliable vertical wind currents whereas a levopter exploits the consistent horizontal wind currents in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Levopters use two large parafoil wings connected by tethers to a fuselage. One of these wings is situated close to the fuselage of the levopter. The other wing is thousands of feet higher.
In the Earth's atmosphere, the wind at high altitudes is stronger than the wind nearer to the Earth's surface. The difference between these wind strengths provides the power to create lift and propulsion for the levopter.
In addition to avoiding the cost of fuel, levopters will also fly autonomously without pilots. Removing the cost of fuel and pilots results in operation costs that the neediest can afford. To enhance efficiency, levopters will collect crops without the need to land. Farmers will fill cargo pods with corn, rice, cotton and other common crops of Africa. A cable attached to the cargo pod will then be snared by a low-flying levopter and carried over bad roads to lucrative markets.
Farmer profits will increase by factors of 2x to 4x meaning more kids will go to school, fewer days will be lost to illness and better farm tools can be purchased to improve production. It will also be possible for these farmers to move to higher earning crops such as perishable fruits and vegetables or even highly lucrative cut flowers.
We are developing levopters in the city of Bamako, Mali where our team is comprised of African people familiar with the needs, environments and cultures of Africa. Many well-intentioned developments from the West face lack of acceptance in Africa because they weren’t created with local knowledge. Levopters will be developed in Africa and because of their simple construction, they will also be manufactured in Africa.
The under-served market of 600 million only counts people in Africa. Other regions of the world are likely to double that figure. The levopter services of Wings4Farmers hold the potential to empower these people to farm their way to prosperity and transition away from a subsistence existence to become productive world citizens.