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December 4, 2022
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The Sunsula Cleaner – A new dawn towards zero hunger and understanding the potential of cleaning towards achieving food security 

The losses due to post-harvest handling are soaring. The food demand is on the rise. Millions of people world over are at risk of hunger as more than one-third of food is lost due to post-harvest handling. More effective yet user friendly strategies are required to offset the economic losses resulting from inappropriate post-harvest handling.  

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of the United Nations envisages ending hunger and ensuring access to adequate and quality food by 2030. This is particularly important as a zero hunger directly impacts the economy, health, education, equality, and social development. Over 70% of the sub-Saharan African (SSA) population is directly employed in agriculture. The population in SSA largely derives its source of livelihood from agriculture. According to the World Bank, agriculture makes close to 25% of the Uganda’s national GDP and employs 70% of the country’s population. Hence, the development of agricultural sector is a more viable strategy for poverty alleviation and food security among the population.  

Food losses and food waste are ranked among the top five challenges of food security. In developing countries, a significant amount of produce is lost to inappropriate post-harvest handling. This is fueled by the lack or inadequate knowledge, inadequate and inappropriate technologies, and poor storage infrastructure. In African alone, post-harvest losses are estimated to range between 20% and 40%. This has a significant bearing on economic value of agriculture given the low agricultural productivity in developing countries. Therefore, establishment of best practices and innovative technologies for improving post-harvest management should be top priority for increasing agricultural productivity.  

Cleaning, a post-harvest operation that comes after threshing in the value-chain involves the separation of whole grain from foreign material such as stones, straws, chaff as well as broken grains. Effective cleaning aids storage, processing, quality control, and pest management. However, grains cleaning is mainly done using rudimentary manual methods that are not only tedious, laborious, time-consuming but also contribute to poor post-harvest handling. Winnowing using winnowing trays is the most dominant cleaning method in the developing countries.  

Manual cleaning methods are also characterized by low capacity, high inconsistencies, and low cleaning efficiency since they depend on human perception. Therefore, cleaning operations could best be improved with the use of mechanical cleaning equipment. However, the available imported cleaners are energy demanding, complex to repair, and expensive in terms of ownership, operation, and maintenance. This calls for development of locally accepted and scalable grain cleaning technologies to augment the cleaning operation among smallholder farmers that dominate Uganda’s farming space.  

Our Contribution to zero hunger 

Badaye Technologies Ltd (BTL) designed and developed a Pedal-Operated Maize (POM) cleaner dubbed Sunsula Cleaner. The name Sunsula was arrived at after assessing the nomenclature difficulties that would otherwise arise among the population as many of the practicing farmers are less educated. It was so difficult to trade the cleaner using Pedal-Operated Maize (POM) cleaner as a brand name. Given the role of partnerships in development, BTL company has continued to liaise with Iowa State University Uganda Program (ISU-UP), an NGO based in Kamuli district to effectively create market awareness of the Sunsula among maize farmers. 

BTL developed its first commercial Sunsula Cleaner in 2019 with funding from Roddenberry Foundation. This was after a proof of concept in 2018 that was funded by Iowa State University – Uganda Program (ISU-UP), an NGO based in Kamuli, Uganda as a research project for Mr. Ismail Mayanja, one of the company co-founders.

Sunsula is a locally manufactured pedal driven cleaner that uses rotary motion to separate grains from foreign matter and broken seeds. The innovation has been designed to effectively clean grains than the common sieve/screen technology, since it ensures continuous movement of the maize due to gravity and centrifugal forces. 

The Sunsula cleaner consists of a set of cleaning sieves; one with mesh holes larger than grain hence trapping impurities larger than grain and the other with mesh holes smaller than grain hence eliminating impurities smaller than maize grain such as chaff. The grain to be cleaned is fed into the hopper and flows by gravity into an air duct where light materials are blown off with the air from a centrifugal fan (blower). After, the seeds are channeled to the rotary sieves for further separation. The fan and sieve rotary motion derived from pedaling supports seed continuous movement through the sieves due to gravity and centrifugal forces. Clean seeds are then collected in one receptacle through the seed outlet. 

Due to farmer demand, the Sunsula cleaner has evolved to a better version that allows cleaning of different grains. In 2020, with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund (RIF), a multi-seed cleaner was developed and tested with maize, beans, and ground nuts. Cleaning rates of 576.5 kg/h, 375.8 kg/h, and 377.4 kg/h for maize, beans, and groundnuts were obtained respectively. Maize, beans, and groundnuts had their highest cleaning efficiencies of 95.09%, 87.61%, and 81.67% respectively, at pedaling speed of 60 rpm. The multi-seed Sunsula cleaner presented seed damage of less than 1% for maize, beans, and ground nuts compared to 2% with the first version. The very low seed damage metrics substantiates that the machine can effectively be used for cleaning planting material as it guarantees seed quality in terms of vigor and viability. Vigor and viability are greatly affected by seed damage.  

The Sunsula cleaner presents a more viable cleaning option for smallholder farmers in rural and remote areas with no access to the national grid, therefore producing high-quality seeds at 5 times higher seed cleaning rates compared to traditional cleaning technologies.

 Writer: Emmanuel Baidhe, Research & Development Lead. Badaye Technologies Ltd P. O. Box 4932, Kampala (U) Website: www.badayetechnologies.com, Email: info@badayetechnologies.com

Tel: +256200906369,+256772222950

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