Rural farmers can increase the value of their crops tenfold by using a new technology – a village industrial mobile power plant (VIP). The technology commercializes innovative clean energy solutions for rural communities.
The plant which was introduced in Kenya in 2016 uses agricultural waste as fuel; it has a 10Kw engine that creates thermal, electrical, and mechanical energy to transform crops into high-value products. VIP’s pilot power plants are currently on trial in East Africa.
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The plant enables farmers to shell 1 tonne of maize in 2 hours for Sh150 per bag. It thus reduces the chances of aflatoxin infection and improves the quality of maize. It also reduces the unpredictable cost of manual labor used to dry maize in the sun as rural farmers mostly depend on the sun to dry their grains.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over one billion tonnes of food in Africa which constitutes about 70 per cent of fresh farm produce rots on the farm before it reaches consumers. The continent, thus, is still a huge importer of food although it has 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
“VIP’s mobile power plant unit is robust, reliable, and on-demand, enabling farmers to process their own crops and participate directly in the value chain, VIP’s carbon neutral engine is fuel flexible, using waste such as maize cobs, coffee parchment, mango pits, and bagasse to supply thermal, electric, and mechanical power,” says Maggie Flanagan, the company’s Vice President for business development.
According to Maggie, the VIP engine is fuel-flexible, clean-burning, and able to run on numerous biomass feedstocks. The super-heated steam in turn produces heat that can be used to produce either hot air or hot water on demand for a wide range of agricultural applications. The VIP unit offers the lowest cost of electricity in its class. It’s designed to be robust and easily operated. Using only two wrenches, the engine can be disassembled and reassembled in an hour. It can be an economic engine of growth for rural development.
In Kenya, VIP has set up a maize processing unit in western Kenya used to shell and dry maize. Properly dried maize allows farmers to get a better market price and store enough maize for personal consumption during the dry seasons.
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The machine is also used in mango drying, small dairy processing, small-scale sugar processing, fish drying, irrigation, pumping, and purifying water.
Maggie Flanagan notes that farmers are free to have the plant tested on their farms for free to add value to their crops. “We have helped Kambiti East farmer’s group dry their mangoes for more profits”
“Since we started this project of drying mangoes, we have faced so many challenges, because when there is not enough heat from the sun, our mangoes get spoiled. Now with the VIP dryer, we can slice mangoes from 8:30 am to 2 pm daily without worry, and the results are good unlike before” said Fridah Mbai, Vice Chairperson and Supervisor of Kambiti East Mango Growers Group.
Another farmer Raymond Kiprop, who is the owner of Raymond Agricultural Services, says he likes the technology because it is cost-effective and cheaper to run it as you only need residues of the crop to generate power. “Another reason that I like this machine is the drying part where you now use the steam that is generated to dry your maize up to the required moisture level” adds Kiprop.
Maggie Flanagan can be reached at +254 790 919 164 or Maggie@villageindustrialpower.com