We know that it is a “group of friends” who is behind Owngrids, have any of them ever lived off-the-grid, or tried? (if you liked what you are going to read, at the end of this conversation there is a 15% discount)
António – We all still live within the network, but Fernando lived a large part of his life in Venezuela, where he has always been in contact with a reality where sometimes electricity and other essential goods are not always guaranteed. Me, not out of direct confrontation with the scarcity of certain supplies, but because of my proximity to an uncle who has always been the family’s “MacGyver”, I grew up watching several small self-sufficiency projects. The fascination came from there.
On a daily basis, we already use certain tools that allow us to achieve some autonomy. Solar Powerbanks, for example, we often use as an alternative to the power grid. Which is only possible today, due to the advances made in the battery sector, which allows us to have in one device the production, storage, and distribution of energy.
What is your personal relationship with the topic?
António – Since I was young I have been concerned with the future of society and the planet. Over the past few years, I have been close to projects all over the country that seeks to build a new life in the community, where resource management and self-sufficiency are the order of the day. I faced the difficulties of those looking, for example, to generate and consume their own electricity, produce their food within a sustainable logic, using techniques such as permaculture or hydroponic agriculture, or even reuse rainwater for practically all areas. daily uses, through rainwater collection and filtering systems.
Current access to different products is scarce and disorganized, as they are very different industrial sectors (water, food, energy, mobility, utensils, and health). There is no other website that joins, informs and sells simultaneously what is necessary to stay off-the-grid, organized by the main areas of daily life.
With Owngrids it is possible to capture rainwater through water collectors and filter it to become drinkable through water filtration devices. Generate clean energy, store it and distribute it without using the grid. Grow various vegetables, in different locations, in an intelligent and sustainable way. Move “green” and autonomously using e-bikes or electric scooters. Create necessary tools on 3D printers. Minimize health risks with emergency support products.
It is hard to believe that the launch of this project happened in the unique moment that we are experiencing. How did it happen?
The idea of offering solutions that allow people to achieve greater independence and self-sufficiency has been taking shape for some years, but it was only in the beginning of 2019 that I challenged Fernando, with whom I have worked in different marketing projects and who already has experience with e-commerce stores, and we started creating the website. There were many months of improvement and this whole disaster of the new coronavirus, accelerated the process of the official launch of the website. We noticed an increase in online demand for hygiene and health products that in many places and cases have been scarce in physical distribution. We chose to adapt and today we are able to guarantee the essential products to combat COVID-19 (gloves, N95 masks, non-contact thermometers, sterilizers …) with guaranteed shipping & delivery conditions certain countries with terms of 7 to 18 days. So we reach those who need it, with what they need, in the time they need it. At this time, the “Health” area has been in greater demand, but “Food” is also starting to grow, with more and more people interested in starting to grow their food at home. We have several solutions for different types of agriculture and realities. Raising peppers on a balcony is different than growing in a yard. There are different solutions for this, such as Vertical Gardens or Smart Grow Systems.
Have you noticed the impact this had on the launch? Was there an immediate demand for gloves, for example, something extraordinary that you were not expecting? How has membership been?
António – It is still too early to draw conclusions, but naturally there has been a greater demand for this type of product. We try to deliver the best products, at competitive prices, within affordable terms and inform the community about the care to be taken in this atypical period. We have written an article with the main measures to be taken and we have tried to warn of the importance of staying at home and protecting themselves when they have to leave. Adherence has been positive, sometimes due to the idea of self-sufficiency, sometimes due to the tools, we offer to fight the virus.
How did you find the suppliers? Online research, tips from friends, others…
António – We work with suppliers around the world. We started by defining the concept of self-sufficiency and tried to find the products that could match. Suppliers are the result of extensive research, for which we have our own method with defined metrics, to ensure the delivery, quality, and safety of all products sold.
What is the most medium to long term expectation for this project?
António – Owngrids’ goal is to become the main partner in the transition to an off-the-grid life. We seek to educate for the possibilities of existing independence and to materialize this ideal with concrete products that immediately help to start a new life.
The current pandemic has already lifted the veil over this modality, with more and more people all over the world thinking about alternatives to the established network, which is currently suffering threats that compromise its good functioning. Currently, with the spread of the pandemic, the focus is to avoid contagion, with the search for products to fight the virus, but we anticipate that with the progress of this quarantine reality, more people will feel the need to start to become more independent to ensure the continuity of goods and services that we now take for granted.
Our vision is that we are at a unique turning point in history, in which the available technology is increasingly able to free us from certain dependencies, allowing greater security and savings in the short, medium and long term. We believe in the fusion and balance between nature and technology. Off-the-grid is not synonymous with returning to the Stone Age. The important thing is to create new networks. Hence the name Owngrids.
How have you been occupying your quarantine?
António – In the countryside, in “retreat”. Each one, through his computer, has been continuing his work obligations, but the truth is that we are all confronted for the first time with the reality of the home-office and its advantages and disadvantages. I am aware of how lucky we are to be in contact with nature and that many people cannot leave its four walls in the middle of the city’s buildings. I have followed all developments with attention and concern and tried to reflect on how to continue our lives after all this. Having to “stop” allows time to think about a wider perspective on the direction we take individually and collectively.
What do you get out of this when it’s over? Positive and negative.
António – This pandemic will undoubtedly be one of the most transformational events of our generation. In addition to health-related damage, shutting down the economy obviously has serious consequences. Many companies will have to close and many people will lose their jobs. Any crisis requires an enormous effort of sacrifice and often a complete change in business models but above all in mentalities. I believe that the companies that will more easily resist, will be the ones that are able to adapt to an increasingly more digital life, where having an online store will become a must-have for any business. On the other hand, the introduction of mass teleworking by companies demystifies the real need for physical presence at fixed times. I believe that, after this trial period, if productivity continues, companies will increasingly start to adopt this modality, which will inevitably allow people to opt for lifestyles more distant from the big cities, where self-sufficiency may become less and less a dream, and another reality.
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