A ge(r)m of an idea
Entrepreneur invents trolley sanitiser — and supermarkets are lining up to buy i
Port Elizabeth entrepreneur Mornay van der Berg said he and his family felt blessed to be able to one day tell future generations how they contributed to the fight against Covid-19.
They have managed to develop an innovative, hands-free solution to the mundane task of sanitising trolleys at supermarkets.
The Van der Bergs built a sanitising machine which does the work for customers who, upon entering a store, roll their trolleys through a disinfecting shower while they sanitise their hands at a handwashing station before reconnecting with the trolley on the other side.
The Lorraine resident, who owns a company that specialises in manufacturing built-in cupboards, said his wife Tessa was the brains behind the concept, which had already been adopted by several SPAR supermarkets in Port Elizabeth and East London.
He said the device was aptly named the “T-san” with the first letter representing the first name of his wife as well as trolley, while san was simply an abbreviation for sanitiser.
“The concept came about during lockdown level five when we couldn’t go anywhere, nor buy anything and I couldn’t work.
“My wife said it wasn’t just about Covid-19 — trolleys contain germs.
“In general it is a dirty item, and with the Covid-19 pandemic people are even more aware and concerned,” Van der Berg said.
“My wife drew me a picture, said I should build something like this and she said everyone [who] shopped would have peace of mind in knowing their trolley was clean.”
The father-of-three said the machine did not spray the handle only, but the entire trolley.
He said one of the biggest challenges in developing the device was working out what they could use to build the machine at a time when their suppliers were closed.
“At home I did have some aluminium extrusion, so we built the frame.
“We couldn’t buy anything for sensors, but I had some that sense movement inside the house for a security system.
“We dismantled those systems, we tweaked them to make them sense the movement of your hand or the movement of a plastic and/or metal trolley, and it worked.
“The whole experiment at that time was just awesome.
“It made us feel positive — our first customer was Peter Barnes at the Sunridge SuperSPAR and he immediately said yes, he’d love it for his customers,” he said.
Van der Berg said he was overwhelmed by the response to their invention on social media — it had received more than 10,000 shares and over 400,000 views.
He said they had so far sold more than 70 units to grocery stores and their biggest demand was from SPAR outlets in the province’s two major cities.
“Locally, orders are being made, and in the Garden Route as well we’ve received orders.
“Should there be a huge demand we’ll employ more people, but I want people without skills so as to equip them with skills.”
The couple also make hand-sanitising machines for shoppers.
“We’ve donated two of the machines to the Sunridge Park Primary School to sanitise the hands of the children.
“There’s a basin to prevent spilling on the floor and a hole to allow the overflow to be drain into a container.
“Over time I’ll donate to other schools as well. This isn’t just about the business — we also want to give back.”
Van der Berg encouraged people who might have lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown to think outside the box to find alternatives, saying though there might be disappointments along the way, setbacks could ultimately pave the way for a breakthrough.
Spar Eastern Cape operations executive Grant Klinkradt said: “Each store is retailer-owned, and some stores have sourced the sensored hand and trolley sanitiser, which is fast and efficient when sanitising.
“Ensuring our shoppers have a pleasant and safe shopping experience is of utmost importance, so we’re pleased when our customers feel safe and comfortable shopping after the precise sanitisation process.”