CTI Founders

In 1981 Compatible Technology International (CTI) was formed by a group of engineers and researchers who worked for Minnesota-based food companies like General Mills and Pillsbury.

Our founders wanted to utilize their skills and knowledge to help farmers in developing countries overcome hunger, rise from poverty, and build hope.

The team formed CTI, led by professional staff and powered by skilled volunteers, all dedicated to designing and distributing simple tools that help farmers in developing countries improve their food production, income and livelihoods.

Roots in India

Our first major program was in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where potato farmers were forced to sell their crops immediately after harvest — when the market was flooded with potatoes — or risk losing everything to spoilage. As result, they barely made enough income to survive on.

To help farmers make a decent living from their potatoes, CTI's founders — George Ewing, Bob Nave, and Emery Swanson — gathered a group of volunteers with expertise in engineering and food processing from the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

The volunteer team spent time listening to the needs and desires of the local farmers, and they worked together to build Cool Storage Sheds, an inventive technology that utilized evaporating water to lower the shed's air temperature, enabling farmers to safely store potatoes for several additional months. They also designed bicycle-powered potato peelers and slicers and placed them in public facilities throughout the region so farmers could make dried potato snacks. The technologies were a big hit; farmers tripled their incomes selling potato chips and local artisans earned money making and selling the potato processing technologies.

India Roots

In India, our founders learned how critical it is to involve local communities in the design process from start to finish. They also discovered the powerful impact that postharvest interventions can have on reducing hunger and poverty. To this day, the rural poor largely depend on manual labor and rudimentary hand tools to produce food. We’ve found that simple innovations that make this work easier can reduce food losses, boost yields, and increase the value of farmers’ harvest.

Since our founding, we’ve equipped communities in more than 50 countries with affordable technologies for drying and storing crops, threshing and winnowing grain, and milling flour and nut paste.

In recent years we’ve concentrated on introducing postharvest technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 30% of food produced is lost before it’s eaten or sold. We’ve opened offices in Senegal and Malawi, and we work directly with local farmers, manufacturers, and other organizations to equip rural communities with tools and training.

As a result, farmers in some of the poorest regions of the world are producing an abundance of nutritious food, transforming their farms into prosperous enterprises, and realizing brighter futures.