You’ve never seen a brie or ricotta quite like this. A new Kickstarter project from the solar power company YOLK promises a cheese board that’s totally inedible — but completely electric.
SunMade Cheese is a collection of cheese-shaped accessories all powered by a single solar panel. This panel looks a bit like a plate, and when fully charged, it generates 5 volts at 1.2 amps. That’s enough energy to charge a smartphone as fast as a standard wall charger.
The energy is concentrated in the “brie” embedded on the plate. Users can hook their USB cables into a port on the side of this cheese-shaped block, dubbed the USBrie. They can also attach the included power bank to the top of the brie. This power bank looks like a glass bottle of milk, in keeping with the dairy theme.
The Solar Milk power bank can charge any of the SunMade Cheese accessories on the go. Those accessories include the Swiss Note, which resembles a wedge of Swiss cheese but functions as a bluetooth speaker and radio.
Then there’s the Ricotta Torch. When you snap the Solar Milk into this module, it transforms into a flashlight. But the light intensity automatically lowers once the Ricotta Torch is set down, allowing it to also function as more of a night light for anxious sleepers.
The last piece is the Cacio Kindler. Shaped like a lump of caciocavallo cheese, this plasma lighter is windproof, odorless, and flameless. For user safety, it only works when it’s attached to the Solar Milk power bank and the buttons on both devices are engaged. It’s also, of course, completely rechargeable.
But the SunMade Cheese set is much more than a pitch to sustainable cheese lovers. Its sales support YOLK’s humanitarian work in Africa, where the company is currently conducting a Solar Cow project.
This “cow” is, just like the cheese, shaped like the real thing. But it features a larger solar panel along its back, capable of charging a few dozen Solar Milk power banks. These banks can provide an enormous relief to families in rural regions of Africa — some of whom live four to six hours away from the nearest charging station.
Charging a cell phone is not only a time strain, but an economic one, since it costs money to use these charging stations. By providing free, accessible, and rechargeable solar energy banks, YOLK believes it can lift financial burdens on rural African families and allow more of them to send their children to school.
Currently, one in five children in Sub-Saharan Africa does not attend school due to child labor, a statistic that’s twice the worldwide average.
“[The Solar Cow] allows students to charge their portable power batteries while they are studying at the school,” Sen Chang, the CEO of YOLK, explains in a video.
“If students can bring home full energy at the end of every school day, it will be a big contribution for their families, and motivate parents to send their children to the school.”
All pledges to the SunMade Cheese Kickstarter support this work. Customers can purchase the entire cheese board for $198, or a scaled-down version featuring just the panel, USBrie, and Solar Milk for $98. For $35, donors can also contribute a power bank to Africa.
The Kickstarter has raised just $36,175 of its $100,000 goal so far, but it still has 20 days of crowdfunding left to go. The project will be funded if it hits the $100,000 mark by Oct. 25.