Pelkins Ajanoh

2021 Cheng Fellow

Pelkins Ajanoh is a joint MS/MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is the co-founder of CassVita, a tech-enabled agribusiness that invented a novel technology for increasing the shelf-life of cassava – a highly valuable but rapidly deteriorating root vegetable – from 3 days to 18 months by converting it into gluten-free alternative foods. Pelkins’ interest in the intersection of business and engineering stems from his belief that, by innovating from first principles, one can create new markets, and consequently, engender economic opportunity.

Pelkins earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked as a self-driving car engineer at General Motors, where he patented novel technologies for autonomous vehicles, a product manager at Microsoft, and a consultant at McKinsey & Company. Pelkins believes in the philosophy of living for a bigger purpose than himself and sees the central theme across his professional experiences as the desire to leverage technological innovation to create economic opportunity. His work has been recognized by the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the New York Times, MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, and Harvard Innovation Labs Social Impact Fellowship Fund.

As a Cheng Fellow, Pelkins is working to create sustainable livelihoods for farmers in Cameroon by converting cassava into alternative foods and thereby increasing its shelf-life. To date, he has impacted over 500 farmers in Cameroon and CassVita’s products have been sold in over 50 supermarkets globally.