Alum-led startup Sanergy aims to address sanitation crisis in Africa
On March 14, President Peter Salovey toured Sanergy, a manufacturing facility in Nairobi, Kenya, founded by David Auerbach ’03 and Lindsay Stradley ’03. The company’s mission is to make hygienic sanitation affordable and more accessible throughout Africa.
More than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation services, leading to contaminated water and food supplies, according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Inadequate sanitation, caused primarily by lack of physical space, infrastructure, and limited resources, is now the second-largest cause of disease in the world.
Sanergy fosters healthy communities by manufacturing and installing sanitation systems that are affordable and accessible — not only in Nairobi, but throughout other areas of Africa. The company builds and franchises “Fresh Life,” its own brand of innovative sanitation facilities in local communities, where they are run as viable businesses. Sanergy operates primarily within informal settlements where sanitation services are sub-optimal, replacing pit latrines that are subject to overflowing and a host of other problems. Sanergy oversees the collection of waste from these facilities and converts it into useful by-products such as organic fertilizer, insect-based animal feed, and renewable energy.
Among Sanergy’s pioneering practices is the creation of insect-based animal feed from waste material. They use a colony of black soldier flies, whose larvae consume organic waste. The larvae are then boiled and dried in the sun, eliminating pathogens and producing a protein-rich ingredient for animal feed. Sanergy also treats and reuses urine and capture the biogas from other waste to create sources of renewable energy.
Auerback and Stradley have said they believe that launching Sanergy to make hygienic sanitation accessible and affordable to everyone is critically important. That service now serves as a gateway to solving a myriad of global challenges, including clean water, quality healthcare, food security, energy, and economic empowerment.
Before launching Sanergy, the Yale classmates worked across sectors in roles that come together to inform their current venture. Stradley has worked for Google and in the education sector. After graduating with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Yale, she joined Teach for America and helped start a charter high school in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. She oversees growth and expansion at Sanergy. Auerbach has taught and worked in China and Mexico, and he worked on poverty alleviation initiatives at the Clinton Global Initiative. Now he is responsible for raising capital, business development, and building and nurturing partnerships and international relationships for Sanergy.
“I am so impressed with the creative and meaningful work David and Lindsay are doing here in Kenya,” Salovey said during his tour of the Sanergy plant. “Yale’s mission says we prepare future leaders who will improve the world. That is exactly what we are seeing here — the problems that can be solved, the lives made better, by sharing knowledge and ideas to address global challenges.”
Salovey’s visit to the start-up company was part of his six-day visit to Ghana and Kenya with Yale faculty and staff. You can learn more about his visit and the Yale Africa Initiative by following #YaleinAfrica on Instagram, Twitter, and on Facebook.