Members of milk pasteurization start-up Safi present at United Nations

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Members of Waterloo-founded milk pasteurization start-up Safi were recently invited to present at the United Nations as part of a Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals from May 9 to 10.

Founding members Miraal Kabir, Daria Margarit and Martin Turuta – all math/business dual degree students – were invited to the summit by the organizers of the America Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase, which they won last summer.

The members of Safi in front of the UN

L-R: Daria Margarit, Martin Turuta, Miraal Kabir

“Alongside four other start-ups, we were invited to give lightning talks,” explains Kabir. “The others were all more advanced than we were, with six or seven years of experience each, so we felt like the babies in the room as usual! But it was such a huge opportunity to learn from their experiences.”

During the visit the team also presented their progress to interested government officials and NGO representatives, and had breakfast with the UN’s Ten Member Group. “They provided us with so much important legal advice and cultural context, which will be invaluable moving forward,” says Margarit.

The presentation was the highlight of a spring that has seen the fledgling start-up transform from a student project to a functioning company. In the first quarter of the year, Safi raised $22,000 in a single month, and joined Velocity full time, which they say has been essential in transitioning to an independent company.

 “It’s been like having a home and a bridge at the same time,” Turuta says.

I first met with Miraal, Martin, and Daria over two years ago when they started Safi,” says John Dick, director of Velocity campus. To their immense credit they have spent the intervening time dedicating themselves to solving an important problem for developing nations, and to do so have built outstanding relationships with governments, NGOs, and farmers in multiple countries in Africa. I was delighted to hear — but not at all surprised — that they were invited to present at the UN last month. 

Members of Safi give a presentation in a UN chamber

Safi was one of five groups invited to give lightning talks at the UN forum.

Velocity is incredibly proud to have had a hand in supporting Safi through our programs, funding, and advisory resources on the University of Waterloo campus,” he adds. Now that they are taking the startup full-time, we look forward to continuing that support at our downtown Kitchener incubator to help them reach their goals as fast as possible.”

“One of the most beneficial aspects of the experience,” Turuta  reflects about Safi’s time with Velocity, “has been just working through our product and figuring out where potential vulnerabilities might be with the help of so many mentors and fellow entrepreneurs who have such a wealth of experience.”

Now, with several scouting trips to African countries behind them and an August graduation on the horizon, the Safi founders are looking forward to their first paid pilot in East Africa this July. They will be distributing fifty devices, paid for by NGO and government partners, that will both pasteurize milk on a small farm scale while also providing important health and safety data to regulators.

Safi members remain grateful for the support they have received from the Waterloo community, especially from the Faculty of Mathematics Innovation fund, which helped sponsor their initial visit to Rwanda last May. On June 3, they’ll be giving a talk about their experience with Safi as part of the Math Innovation Office’s Entrepreneur and Impact Series.

“Safi is a prime example of the meaningful impact that Math’s amazing students are having globally,” says Stephanie Whitney, director of research & innovation partnerships for the Math Innovation Office. “Math Innovation is honoured to have been invited to support their work. We hope that the broader Waterloo community will join us next week to hear about Safi’s inspirational journey.”

You can learn more about Safi by visiting their website.