Project Everest

Work Update

[Work Update]: Fuel Fiji - Assumption Testing (Do we really need a bigger stove?) - July 2018

One of the original monthly goals for the Fuel II team in Fiji was to sell 10 stoves and gain significant feedback from existing customers on the stove’s performance. So far, there have been multiple village visits and conversations with many existing and prospective customers. From this feedback, there are a few common issues that keep coming up. Many villagers cook within their extended families of up to 8-10+ people, and believe the Buka stove is too small and unsuitable for cooking large amounts of food on.


Initially, to counter this, we were considering the option of producing a bigger stove to cater for the requirements of the villagers. However, after digging deeper into the issue, it was found that these assumptions were usually based on the aesthetics of the stove rather than testing the stove to see if it could cook large amounts of food.


It became clear that we needed to test how many people the stove was suitable to cook for. The best way to do this was to use it in making our own group dinner, which caters for roughly 50 people. Our cook Nisha was more than happy to help, so we conducted the test on Friday 13/07/18. The pot used in the experiment was roughly 45cm in diameter. The meal prepared was a vegetable curry, however it should be noted that the rice for the meal was cooked separately.


Nisha herself said that she prefers the taste achieved from cooking with the stove as opposed to a standard gas hob in a kitchen, and these sentiments were echoed in many of the trekkers during the dinner when comparing the curry cooked with the Buka stove compared to the gas burner.  More importantly though, there was more than enough food cooked on the stove to feed at least 15-20 hungry trekkers. This was a big step in disproving the common misconception and main resistance in a lot of the villagers.


The next step is to now conduct standardised tests/demonstrations within our team and also test in villages in order to show them that the stove can cook for all ranges of numbers and sizes of pots and pans. We would also test staple foods such as cassava or rice. If we can hopefully prove their assumptions have been challenged and acknowledged, it should help in increasing sales of the stoves as it shows how versatile the product is and that it should be able to cater for all their needs.


Should the villagers still be reluctant to believe that the stove is big enough, further ideation would be necessary. Some possible solutions have already been discussed, such as using a wide grate placed on top of the Buka stove, which one of our existing customers and neighbour, Mere, has been doing with her Buka. This would not only provide an aesthetic indicator of the stoves’ ability to hold larger pots and pans and reduce villager’s initial concerns, but provide a stable platform for the pots and pans to sit on comfortably. Other variations of this idea have been discussed, and would be further ideated upon along with a potential larger stove, in the event that our testing and demonstrating isn’t successful in breaking down assumptions about the Buka stove.

edited on 6th September 2018, 00:09 by Justin Hakeem

Cris Birzer Jul 19, 2018

Do you have any quantified indicators, such as time required to cook, or fuel used? At the end of the day, solid-fuel combustion still produces emissions, so reducing fuel consumption goes a long way to reducing exposure.

Reply 0

Cris Birzer Jul 19, 2018

But I'm really glad the results indicate what you have is potentially suitable.

Reply 0

Luke Finlayson Jul 19, 2018

Hi Chris, in the test mentioned in this article, no, there was no quantified data. The point of the experiment was purely to prove that the size of the stove is suitable to cook for large amounts of people, as it was a common criticism and worry that kept coming up by locals on village visits.

Since then, however, we have conducted some quantifiable tests, in terms of fuel consumption. We used the Buka 4.0 and 5.0 prototype and measured how much wood was used to maintain 4 litres of water at boiling point over a 45 minute period.
530g of wood was used for the 4.0 and 525g of wood for the 5.0 prototype, we have more results that will most likely be posted here soon.
Then today we will be conducting stress testing on the stoves, results of which will again will be posted later.

Users tagged:

Reply 0

Cris Birzer Jul 20, 2018

Can you compare that to a three stone fire or equivalent?

Reply 0

Alexander Teicher Jul 20, 2018

Hi Cris, more testing was conducted yesterday with more planned for monday/tuesday to test efficiency/consumption again. Comparing to a three stone fire or a pot on cinderblocks as is found in most kitchens in villages would be difficult as it can come down to how you place the wood, what size you choose to use etc. If more time is taken to place the wood more effectively or smaller pieces used all impacts the results.

How would you suggest standardising this testing, or would averaging a large range of tests mean we wouldnt need to standardise them?

Reply 0

Cris Birzer Jul 23, 2018

Unless you have multiple repeats and determine the standard deviation, all you can get is effectively anecdotal results. You can also get qualitative results from asking locals how much fuel they typically use, but that can be problematic. I suggest just having a crack a setting up a three stone fire and a Buka stove next to each other, boiling water and seeing if there are major differences.

Reply 1

View all replies (5)

Mallory Dobner Jul 20, 2018

I feel like this is an occasion where it would be beneficial to alter your product to the communities desires. I understand that theoretically you can prove that the size of the current stove is sufficient for the needs of your communities but I think it is important for you to weigh up the cost of each alternative:
1) You can change your product in what seems like a fairly simple way described above through making an aesthetic change like putting a grate over the top that satisfies the communities desires.
2) You can change the communities desires through educating each individual that is wanting to purchase your product. This could definitely be done in a way that is effective through pamphlets or some other way of mass educating.
Have you completed any other experiments around this that are able to bring you down to the actual substance of the issue or is it still anecdotal evidence from a few sales?

Reply 1

Alexander Teicher Jul 20, 2018

Hey Mallory,
Modifying the design is definitely something we have been considering, and for our new prototype (5.0) the handles are going to be curved with the top of them being in line with the stove top to allow more support for bigger stoves. For the current 4.0 stove we may also be able to do this as Luke mentioned that one of our exisiting customers Mere is currently doing with a grate over the top.

Ideally we would be able to change perceptions around the stove and ways to use it. From interacting with prospective customers, personally I feel that there seems to be an assumption that the use of the stove is limited in some way. Finding out why the attitude is "how do you use this stove" as opposed to "how can I use this stove" is certainly something we are curious to understand.

In regards to the stove not being big enough I feel like that comes down to it being relatively small compared to the large pots used for cooking, and as mentioned above we are looking at doing demonstrations and also getting testimonials (ideally video ones in Fijian or Hindi) to dispel any concerns there. I do however agree that modifying our design could hopefully make this unnecessary in the first place!

Users tagged:

Reply 0

Justin Hakeem Aug 16, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

Reply 0