Commercializing The Lucky Iron Fish™ Using Social Enterprise: A novel Health Innovation For Iron Deficiency and Anemia in Cambodia and Beyond




Armstrong, Gavin

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University of Guelph


Research reported in the thesis concerns the process of commercializing a simple health invention, the Lucky Iron Fish™. There are seven distinct components of the research: (1) a study into the dynamics of the release of iron during cooking and demonstration that no other potentially deleterious contaminants that are released at the same time; (2) an assessment of the trace element, mineral and electrolyte content of food and drink consumed over a 24-hour period and ground water content in a province in the northern part of Cambodia (Preah Vihear); (3) an assessment of the prevalence of hemoglobinopathies among participants in a clinical study; (4) a twelve-month, randomized clinical trial comparing the regular use of the fish with taking iron pills (no treatment as a control) on iron status in women; (5) an assessment of the ethical and trust frameworks among groups living and working in Cambodia; (6) a critical assessment of current business models for the development of social enterprise and development of a for-profit, financially and socially sustainable social business to commercialize the Lucky Iron Fish™ ; and (7) the development of an improved version of the fish made from electrolytic iron powder. Outcomes from the work include: (1) demonstration of consistent and safe release of iron from the fish during cooking; (2) inadequate nutrition among the study population with high intakes of manganese and sodium, which may have serious health implications for children and adults, and low iron that would support the contention that these people are iron deficient; (3) demonstration of very high prevalence of hemoglobinopathies among women (most of whom are carriers) in Preah Vihear – a novel finding that needs further study; (4) midline data on the impact of using the fish; (5) identification of profound differences in trust and ethical frameworks among groups of people in Cambodia and international aid workers; (6) the development of an improved version of the fish releasing known amounts of bioavailable iron; and (7) the incorporation of a for-profit, sustainable social enterprise that could serve as a model for commercialization of other health interventions in developing countries.



anemia, Cambodia, cast iron, Dietary iron, Electrolytic iron, Fortification, Hemoglobinopathies, Hemoglobin, iron deficiency, iron deficiency anemia, impact entrepreneur, Lucky Iron Fish, Lucky Iron Leaf, Nutrition, iron, supplimental iron, iron supplimentation, Social business, Social enterprise