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Simple grain sorting technologies for implementation at local maize mills

We will work together to test and improve simple grain sorting technologies to reduce mycotoxin exposure in eastern and southern Africa.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Fungal toxins contaminate much of the food supply. Aflatoxin and fumonisin are carcinogenic and stunt growth, and are pervasive in the maize-based food system of eastern and southern Africa. Maize samples are highly heterogeneous, with most of the toxin being present in a few highly-contaminated kernels. Sorting grain based on density and spectral properties can allow people to reduce their exposure to mycotoxins. We have devised a couple of prototype grain sorters that use blowers to remove the lighter and more toxic grains. Initial tests in the US and Kenya have indicated potential, but we need to improve the design and performance and adapt a sorter to local hammer mills in Kenya and Tanzania.

WHO BENEFITS?

~70% of people in eastern and southern Africa process their maize (corn for ugali) in local hammer mills, known as posho mills.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Kenya and Tanzania

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Rebecca Nelson, Cornell University. Francis Ngure and Samuel Mutiga, Biosciences eastern and central Africa and Cornell. Neema Kasim and Martin Kimanya, Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology.

Maize is the mainstay of the diet for millions of people in eastern and southern Africa.  Unfortunately, maize (corn) is often colonized by tiny fungi that produce toxins that stunt growth, reduce immunity to diseases and cause cancer.  It should be possible to reduce toxin exposure by sorting out the toxic kernels of maize at the neighborhood maize mills where most people grind their maize  before cooking it into stiff porridge (ugali or similar).  Our initial prototype sorters work pretty well, but we want to improve them by working with local innovators and millers.

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To help the shortlisted ideas become the best that they can be…
Sun and heat will stop fungi, but the colorless aflatoxin that remains is extremely difficult and costly to sort from surplus grain. 
Agronomists know that in environments like Northern Ghana which couple naturally moving air of low relative humidity and the heating effects of sunshine, grain will dry standing. When grain is dried standing, it spends less time close to the ground exposed to the soil-borne fungi that produce aflatoxin. However those operations that are too small or not conscious of quality, harvest grain with little regard for moisture content onto drying tarpaulin or platforms that are at ground level. Additional handling and drying grain close to the ground increases the risk of soil borne fungi that produce aflatoxin and other pests.
Some production packages have tested solar, bio-mass fueled dryers and even grain sorters to enhance typical storage outside the zones where grain dries standing. However, after support ends closing the yield gap means “Small-scale farmers require solar dryers that are more affordable to purchase or construct and need little maintenance” and “lack of success of using solar based drying among rural commercial [surplus] farmers has been attributed to the cost, complicated operational procedures, and the reluctance to change from traditional methods (IRAC, 2015)” not to mention the additional costs of maintaining the calibration of density and spectral and blowing sorters.
Combining utility with wheels creates cost-effective storage that: when empty, moves to scale for demand, weather, crop pests or PHL; let’s transport go to haul heavy loads (Bessonova, 2015); facilitates processing for market opportunities to reduce the yield gap optimally.
Is sorting grains after they are contaminated a less than an optimal approach to addressing the source of the problem?
William
NeverIdle mobile utility storage
Jobs for Youth to Reverse PHL 

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