An ‘Iron Fish’ is Changing the Lives of Thousands Globally

A University of Guelph grad student is changing the lives of thousands of people worldwide – and has caught the attention of Forbes Magazine in the process.

Last month, Gavin Armstong was featured in Forbes30 Under 30 issue for the work he’s doing with Lucky Iron Fish, an enterprise he founded and is the focus of his PhD research.

The project essentially involves a solid chunk of iron shaped like a fish that delivers a healthy dose of iron into the food or drink of people who cook with it (all you have to do is add it to the pot). It’s designed to combat iron deficiency and anemia in a handful of developing countries.

The idea was developed a few years back by former U of G graduate student Christopher Charles while doing field research in Cambodia. He wanted to find an effective and low-cost solution that people in the country would actually use. The fish shape was chosen because it’s a symbol of luck in Cambodia and some other Asian cultures.

The fish shape also makes it approachable.

As a result, the compliance rate among people given the fish was 94 per cent, according to the Guelph Tribune. This is in contrast to the 33 per cent compliance rate of non-fish-shaped iron pills given to citizens in Cambodia. The Iron Fish can offer up to 75 per cent of your daily iron intake and has been shown to substantially reduce instances of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia.

Charles’ original fish was only designed for small-scale use in Cambodia; however, and Armstrong is taking it a step further to commercialize it on a global scale. Armstrong’s work also included increased quality control and durability, and the continued development of a socially responsible company.

Adopting an increasingly popular one-for-one business model a la TOMS, the organization provides one fish to someone who needs it for every one that is sold.

The fish are slowly starting to find their way both into other regions around the world and our own backyard. Recently, some Iron Fish were given to Ontario’s Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, and donating fish to other First Nations communities is a continued initiative of the project.

For a little fish, it’s making a world of difference.