Four Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology students have developed a product aimed at providing perishable farm produce with affordable and efficient cold storage.
Fifth-year mechatronics engineering students Dennis Mwai, Edgar Omwocha, Dennis Chang’ach and Sammy Karapia came up with the innovative tech product christened Makaridi. They did this after seeing farmers lose a significant quantity of their fresh produce due to lack of an affordable storage plan.
“Our main aim is to help achieve food security in the country and we pointed out that a major way to contribute is to improve the storage of fresh farm produce from local farmers,” explains Mwai, the lead in the team.
The automated solar-powered cooler incorporates modern technology into the traditional charcoal cooler, offering an efficient way of extending the shelf-life of perishable farm produce.
The innovation showcased during JKuat’s Tech Expo last year has three major parts specifically designed to help it maintain favourable storage temperature for fresh produce such as tomatoes and onions.
“It has an overhead tank filled with cold water and fitted with a pipe that opens automatically, pouring water into the middle section which mainly contains charcoal,” Omwocha explains.
The charcoal absorbs heat then applies the evaporation principle to enable cold temperature suitable for the storage of the farm produce. The overflow from the charcoal section permeates to an underground tank which pumps the water back to the overhead tank.
“The food products are placed in inner containers fitted in between Makaridi sections,” Mwai adds.
The team was a week ago announced as the beneficiaries of the Leaders in Innovation Commercialisation Grant from the Kenya National Innovation Agency in partnership with the National Research Fund and the British High Commission in Kenya.
Mwai says that the grant will be key in the piloting phase. He says the cooler will be tested in various horticultural farms in the country to figure out its ability to reduce post-harvest losses before being commercialised.
The competition, which attracted more than 100 innovations from across the country, saw another JKuat student, Lisa Wanjiru Kimondo announced as the first runner-up in the health category with her Digital Stethoscope walking home with Sh350,000. The product, referred to as Digisteth, is a medical device modified to enable physicians listen to different body sounds. It has the ability to amplify, filter, record, playback visualisation and transmit sound to other devices in real time.
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