Innovation in Cuba

The Opportunity

A US-based not-for-profit organization was interested in finding a way to scale their impact in Cuba through innovation and technology. Relaxing laws (at the time) between the US and Cuba provided what seemed to be a promising environment for future projects on the island, and the foundation wanted to find the right way to enter the country, maintaining their mission to improve the quality of life for residents.
After exploring many types of innovative opportunities and industries, we decided to focus on agriculture, as food access and availability greatly affect the majority of the population there. It’s important to note that innovation is not always driven by advanced technology. Sometimes innovation is simply a new way of thinking. In this case, agriculture on the tropical island, while rampant on its fertile ground, is in need of innovative ways of thinking in order to increase access to locally-grown, organic produce.

The Solution

The implementation plan we proposed allows the client to eventually develop and launch a digital platform that facilitates the broader access to a variety of fresh produce, as well as increases revenues for local farmers and vendors. The engagement involved identifying areas that are ideal for innovation on the island, planning a digital intervention, and traveling to the island to understand from a first-hand point of view what the day-to-day challenges are for people from different regions of Cuba.
Early versions of the platform would be extremely manual–accessible offline. When such a basic human need is being met, we agreed the first approach should be focused on simply providing broader access to food and revenue.  We created an offline version of a distribution system that would allow stakeholders on-island to better distribute produce to residents, with the idea of eventually digitizing the process management and reporting infrastructure–once the technological infrastructure in Cuba permits digital buildouts more easily.

Cities Visited

Months to Execute

Programs Proposed

On-site Research

We traveled to the island in order to gain a first-person perspective of the food chain in Cuba, as well as meet some of the local producers and vendors. We confirmed that the agricultural food chain in the country gives exaggerated priority to government-owned institutions. The primary challenges are:

Transportation of Goods

We interviewed local economic experts and observed the transport of produce in several regions. Movement and arrival of goods is very unreliable throughout the island.

Nutrition Education

The culture of knowledge regarding nutrition is relatively non-existent; when basic needs are not met, it is difficult to educate a community on the importance of a balanced diet.

Vegetable Pricing

While prices of many foods are volatile and can change drastically from day-to-day, the prices for fresh vegetables are generally higher per portion than those of other foods