The Kisumu National Polytechnic has invented a water hyacinth harvesting machine that will cost Sh9m to assemble.
The report comes at a time the weed has invaded Lake Victoria, leading to lost business opportunities for fishermen.
Automotive Engineering Department lecturers Samson Alemba and Paul Watsiara, together with two of their students, Kennedy Dago and Kevin Kisia have worked tirelessly for four years to come up with the water hyacinth harvester design.
Alemba who is the main designer and fabricator of the innovation said the machine has already been patented.
The hyacinth harvester has the potential to cover up to half a kilometer from the lake shore. When running at full potential, it can harvest up to 50kgs of hyacinth per hour.
“We decided to scale it down so we can make a Sh4 million miniature prototype. Since this amount is still too much, we decided to fabricate it with locally available materials in order to get the concept for the purpose of visibility. This one has cost us Sh800,000,” Alemba said.
The machine is a chain break harvester which works when the chain is moving forward and has rakes that pull the hyacinth inside. A lift then pulls the machine up so that the chain can dump the hyacinth into another container where it is crushed.
After this, it is put on the conveyor belt which then takes the hyacinth to the loader, and the loader has a tunnel that leads it out to the bugger. The bugger takes it out, and another comes in through the particular opening at the back.
“This is a concept we have tried and seen it work. Our main challenge is funding — if we get someone to provide funding, there will be no hyacinth in the lake tomorrow,” Alemba said.
The machine is run by five petrol driven engines which in turn move the two propellers, a crusher, a rake, and a conveyor belt.
“We wish we could get a powerful engine that can run all of them. But that is very expensive. That is why we are using small engines since currently we are only doing practical demonstrations on the lake,” he said.
Alemba said there is a big difference between their water hyacinth machine, and the one that was imported by Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project phase two (Lvemp II).
“While the Lvemp II machine harvests hyacinth and crushes it at the same time, it nonetheless dumps it in the lake. Our machine, on the other hand, harvests hyacinth then converts it into a form that can be used as a fertiliser, or for making briquettes,” he said.