The Farmking of Nigeria: 4-in-1 Farming device

Sulaiman Famro is a cheerful, 65 year old engineer, and a master of branding. He built the prototype “Farmking” three years ago and claims he can save the country $1 billion a year, just in savings on starch importation.

The Farmking is a one-stop processing plant for cluster and farm-site processing of root crops and grains. It has a diesel powered engine that allows for remote processing, with power out connections for lighting so that it can work all night, if needed.

On one end you have 3 devices, for chipping, grating and milling. In the middle is the power plant, and in the rear is a large steel drum that can hold 50kgs of milled cassava, that uses a spin filter to process up to 2.5 tons of milled cassava into starch.

It’s used for processing of cassava, soya beans, maize, sweet potatoes, yam and many other roots and grains. One of the more interesting uses for it is the capture of starch. Apparently there is a huge amount of waste when the processing of cassava happens in the country right now, instead of being captured it is left to seep into the ground. An incredibly wasteful, manual process currently, Sulaiman is lobbying governors of different Nigerian states to get the Farmking into their areas.

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Sulaiman went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for his undergrad, then on to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU for his masters, finishing in 1976. The Farmking is a project of his that he built on his nights and weekends, claiming that he likes best to work by himself when no one else is around to bother him. It cost approximately 2.5m Naira ($16,000) to buy one, and the prototype (seen here) was built using his own money.

With the first prototype being built 3 years ago, the Farmking has yet to sell one to any other customers. Herein lies the problem for not just Sulaiman, but for many engineering-based founders of organizations. They can be incredibly good at building systems and tools, but aren’t interested, nor do they have the know-how to sell and market their product. It’d be good to see Sulaiman partner with a business person, or company, to streamline the sales and marketing side of the business so that he can make this invention work.

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Note: I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.

Maker Faire Africa 2012: Lagos, in Pictures

As one of the founding organizers for Maker Faire Africa, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of this unfolding maker movement in Africa. To be honest, it’s been going on for a while, so I guess what we’re really doing is just aggregating it in a country, and shining a spotlight on some of the great practical innovation on the continent.

Maker Faire Africa 2012 in Pictures from WhiteAfrican on Vimeo.

Just to get a feel for the projects and people at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos this year, I put together this video with pictures from my phone. I have some more images up on Flickr.

I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.

Urine Powered Generator by 4 Nigerian Teenage Girls

[Note: I originally wrote this post for Maker Faire Africa in Lagos this week, cross-posting it here]

A urine powered generator

Possibly one of the more unexpected products at Maker Faire Africa this year in Lagos is a urine powered generator, created by four girls. The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (14), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15).

1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.

The system works like this:

  • Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
  • The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
  • This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.

Along the whole way there are one-way valves for security, but let’s be honest that this is something of an explosive device…

Note: This is an experiment more than a real new tool for electricity generation. The net power output is negative due to the energy needed to get the hydrogen from the urine through electrolysis.

I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.

Blade-less wind turbine blows fresh air into power generation

A guest post by Kahenya, Founder of Simple Community

The name William Kamkwamba might not sound familiar to many, but he is one of the most significant technology game changers in Africa. He did not design the most glamorous device on the planet, and neither was his creation unique. However, it was extremely significant.

Using just a book, Kamkwamba, now 25, designed and built a windmill that generated electricity and pumped water in his home village in Malawi. This was significant because he proved that it was possible to build things with instant grassroots impact that did not require a business plan, a website, a marketing strategy, a funding strategy or even a glamorous launch. He gained instant fame.

Kamkwamba managed to ensure that he could meet his immediate power needs using tree branches and scrap material. He was able to generate electricity and pump water using pure green energy. That was a decade ago.

Enter the future and a decade later, we have the Saphonian Blade-less wind turbines – another African design, this time from Tunisia. It focuses on clean energy.

The inventing company, Saphon Energy, led by Mr Anis Aouini, understood that older generation turbines, built in Europe, had some fundamental flaws that no-one had resolved.

For one, they generated a lot of noise and vibration. There is the unmistakable whirring, and if you live next to one, unless it is not in motion, you could have sleepless nights before getting used to the sound.  They also unwittingly kill a lot of birds. Unaware birds collide with the blades and get killed.

Not the Saphonian. It has a sail shaped body, similar in concept to sails on a boat or dhow, which makes it bladeless. The unit does not have the famous rotating blades common with older generation turbines and windmills. Even better, the advantages are not limited to aesthetics or providing environment friendly energy. The Saphonian eliminates inefficiencies usually created by moving parts in a windmill.

The lack of blades and other rotating gears means that there is very little aerodynamic energy, and this results in improved power generation. It also reduces mechanical losses. Thus, the Saphonian has been found to be about 2.3 times more significantly efficient than conventional turbines and windmills. It also means that due to the hydraulic system, the Saphonian is able to store energy, which enables it to supply a steady flow of power, provided there is wind flowing or there is energy stored in the system.

In ordinary systems, whatever is generated has to be consumed instantly. National power grids usually supply the exact amount required. This means that when demand exceeds supply, there will be some places without power. On the other hand, excess energy, not being stored, would go to waste.

The storage capability of the Saphonian is therefore significant. Further, the equipment is cheaper to produce than conventional systems. It costs 45 per cent less to develop and deploy a Saphonian Blade-less turbine. With customisations, that cost could be further reduced.

Saphon Energy has tested a 300–500 Watt system as a prototype. It has performed better than was anticipated. The company is now focused on developing a second generation prototype that in many instances, will improve on the hydro-mechanical performance of the first generation unit.

What will matter for this development and its growth is how many national electricity providers deploying wind infrastructure decide to use this more cost effective technology. The Saphonian has proved that Africa can actually improve on previously available technologies that were not as efficient as they could have been.

For William Kamkwamba, this would be a climax to his dream, that affordable energy solutions developed in Africa could actually compete with foreign platforms and even outperform them.

As Africa struggles to meet electricity needs for a growing population, it is necessary for the continent to develop its own home solutions suited for the environment and the pocket. Convenient and relevant innovations such as the Saphonian stand a good chance.

It is no wonder therefore that the Saphonian has won its parent company the KPMG innovation Grant for 2012.

Bulb 2.0 and Maker Faire Africa 2012

For the price of Kshs. 30 /= (EUR 0.27 or USD 0.35) you’ll manage to pick up this kerosine lamp from a kiosk in Kibera, Kenya:
Kibera lamp

Certainly a great visual update to the famous tin can paraffin lamp which sells for a slightly higher price and requires additional soldering. Kerosine (or paraffin) lamps are the alternative to modern solar LED lights, and also to the (otherwise great) daylight indoor illumination via filled water bottles (invented by Alfredo Mozer in Brazil in 2002).

Thx, Majala!

In other news: Maker Faire Africa is coming up again. Yay!

MFA-2012

Maker Faire Africa on November 5th and 6th 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria.  If you are a maker, please consider registering with their website. Further info will be available soon.

Oh, and if you’re on Facebook, please check out our recently relaunched page. All are welcome! :-)