What 325 tiny limes and the IAP have in common: Álvaro Leal’s story

July 8, 2022

325 tiny limes. Helping these humble fruits realize their full potential was the spark of invention for Álvaro Leal. “What will we do with all these limes?” Alvaro asked himself six years ago when his friend brought him a gift that would get his creative juices flowing. With great an appreciation of his friend’s generosity, Álvaro wanted to use every last bit. He spent an entire evening separating the peel from the fruit and was rewarded with liquid gold.

The superior quality juice lasted longer than normal. It had a shelf life of eight to ten days without any added chemicals. The entire process results in little to no waste, as every part of the lime can be used. The pulp was dried and fed to animals while the peel was sweetened and transformed into tea. With this achievement, Alvaro set off to build a machine that could automate the entire process.

(Photo: Álvaro Leal)

Bringing an invention to life was familiar territory for Álvaro. At 70 years old, his life experience led him down a path of entrepreneurship. When faced with a local outbreak of Chikungunya disease in Colombia, he created a repellant to ward off mosquitos. Just a few years ago, Alvaro invented a device to reduce water usage in older toilets.  While Alvaro never had a formal education in engineering, his drive to improve the world around him led him to successful innovations.

Álvaro’s proprietary machine has two sections. The first section removes the peel and softens the limes. The second section squeezes the lime and separates the pulp and the pips. Alvaro benefited from support of WIPO’s Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) to secure a patent to protect the machine he invented. The IAP provides inventors with a volunteer patent attorney or agent at no cost. Alvaro’s volunteer attorney, Claudia del Pilar Montoya, helped him navigate the entire process to secure the rights needed to transform his invention into a commercial reality.

(Photo: Álvaro Leal)

Once WIPO connected Álvaro with Claudia Montoya, Patent attorney at “PILAR Derecho de los Negocios”, the pair got to work right away. First, she helped him make sure the invention was something new with the potential to be protected by a patent. Once this was confirmed, Claudia expertly engaged with Álvaro, to craft a patent application that would support his ambition for a more sustainable lime harvest. Through her work with Álvaro, “I have realized that every inventor has a dream to fulfill through his inventions, for me supporting them is like helping to achieve their dream”, said Ms. Montoya.

In June 2020, the patent was granted and Álvaro was ready to bring his machine to local farming communities. Last December, he made a deal with Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture, to deploy his invention within the regions of Tolima and Cundinamarca.

The support of the Inventor Assistance Program made a big impression on Álvaro. “The Program made me feel like I exist, like what I’m doing has significant impact. I am in the right place and that changes everything. With WIPO’s support, the help of the Colombian Superintendence of Industry and Commerce and my family, I was strengthened and I continue to be strengthened.”

With that fortitude, Álvaro continues to develop the machine. He focuses on increasing its capacity and ability to work with other types of citrus fruits. Keenly aware of the challenges faced by local farmers, Álvaro also has plans for a version that can run with both electric power and solar energy. As he explained, many farmers lack a steady supply of power. He dreams of one day making a solution that will work for them too.

In addition, Alvaro is very grateful to the SIC, the Colombian Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, as well as to his family, who have been important pillars that helped define the course of his invention.

WIPO created the Inventor Assistance Program to help inventors like Álvaro turn their innovations into meaningful solutions. The Program has supported more than 150 inventors and small businesses (SMEs) in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Morocco, Peru, and South Africa.

Visit the IAP’s website to learn more about how to apply as an inventor, become a volunteer or a sponsor of the program.