The equipment that comes to life due to the passion to innovate

Moldova Innovation Challenge Scheme (MICS) is an open grant competition that rewards innovative ideas, out-of-the-box solutions and visionary entrepreneurs from Moldova. Nicolae Oleinic is one of them. 

Launched by UNDP Moldova with the aim to stimulate development of innovations within business entities, the contest provides financial awards up to 8,000 USD per applicant, with at least forty percent (40%) of the total budget being covered by the applicant.

Nicolae Oleinic graduated the Technical University of Chisinau, as engineer technologist. His childhood dream however was to attend a music school (the same where Nicolae Botgros studied) and play the accordion (self-taught since the age of 5). Still his family decided to send Nicolae to study engineering in Chisinau, as they thought “hard times await musicians”.

At the Technical University, Nicolae was amongst the best students and was encouraged by his teachers to follow a scientific degree. He enjoyed however much more the process of visiting big factories, observing the production flow and the birth of final product. This led to the decision of starting his job as chief engineer at Ungheni canned goods factory, where he was close to the equipment that he enjoyed so much observing.

12 years later, Nicolae dives into entrepreneurship, founding the company UNIFERAX GROUP, with the mission to build high quality equipment for any technological challenges. Nicolae mentioned that he doesn’t regret his choice of following the engineering path. “Not all of us can be Botgroses” he said, laughing. “Not all of us can be Oleinics”, I replied. He laughed and we agreed that doing one’s job with passion is an accomplishment and a true art itself, regardless the area of activity.

The founders believed in the continuous growth of the team, fueled by the client satisfaction and inspired by sector dynamics. Currently, the company finds itself with many successful projects behind and the notoriety of being the one-stop shop for all farmers in the region.

“We always try to keep an eye on the pulse of the sector, there is not much you can do with 30 years old knowledge. It is like riding a bicycle, stop for a minute and you fall. We participate often in international exhibitions, organize skype calls with Western partners and visit them. Each time, I return with a feeling of white, constructive envy that pushes me to implement things learnt abroad, here, at home”.

Currently, UNIFERAX GRUP has 2 parallel activities:

  • production of dried fruits and vegetables
  • production of a wide range of equipment destined for agro processing.

The company also focuses on design and construction of non-standard equipment and has expertise in automotive construction and household appliances. It employs 10 workers and Nicolae himself is an experienced designer of machines.

“It’s a complicated process, but in the end, after each machine is assembled and starts to work and produce real value, we feel this machine as a person that is alive, born out of work and creation. And as each person is unique, each machine is one of its kind, destined for a specific owner and need”.

In 2015, UNIFERAX received an innovation grant from the UNDP and used the funds to diversify its production and test solutions that operate on biomass. The energy savings are estimated at 30 – 40%.

With the grants’ help, they developed a custom-made machine for drying fruits that operates on biomass and will be tested in few weeks as a pilot plant for production of dried fruits (cherries, apples, plums, etc). The machine has been designed by Nicolae Oleinic himself and will be significantly more efficient in energy consumption than electrical machines. Several orchards from the neighborhood plan to form a joint venture and use together the innovative drying machine as a pilot. 

“Cooperation is everything in this field. We used to buy raw material for our dried fruits production, but it is much more challenging than having our own orchards and fruits. We are working on partnering with a fruit producer that would provide us with raw material, while we come with all necessary equipment. I believe in synergies and the financial assistance that we had received helped us get in shape and embark on new synergies.”

The company intends to employ and educate new generations of enthusiasts, while continuously embracing innovation and discovering new areas where the multi-talented staff can drive a change.

“I dream of modernizing our studio and integrate more young people in our team. This has been my desire my entire life: to pass my experience and passion to young people that would carry on our activities and take them to the next level. Meanwhile, I plan to activate in this field till the last breath. Even if the contribution that we bring is made of small adjustments, in the long run, it makes a difference for people and economy as a whole.”

UNIFERAX company is the proud owner of a private library containing more than 2,000 thematic books that are gladly shared with the employees and anyone interested in the field.

“I owe much of my vital energy to the hunger of continuously learning, discovering, experimenting in the field that I love. I feel inspired when I see that the machines developed by us make life a bit easier for good people.”

Other beneficiaries of the MICS 2015 competition have also developed innovative businesses or implemented unordinary solutions as part of their operations. They impress customers with traditional souvenirs made of biodegradable materials, pre-cooked frozen snails, a sow breeding farm, educational wooden toys for children and other inspiring initiatives.

The grants were offered as part of the UNDP project Innovative Business Development for Local Sustainable Economic Growth -  financed by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other donors, emerging as an immediate answer to the National Strategy for Innovation adopted by the Moldovan Government in November 2014.