A wind turbine to fight aflatoxin contamination

  • 17th October 2018
  • by secretary

17 October 2018. Pretoria. 2nd International Conference on Food Safety and Security. Theme: Next Generation Food Safety Technologies addressing Sustainable Development Goals.

Presentation made by Francis Agbali, University of Kentucky. US
Aflatoxin contamination of grain in sub-Saharan Africa: Public health implication, application of novel postharvest technology in grain drying and the role of policy in adoption

Mutairu Ganiyu, 43, is wearing a dark brown jacket and driving a red motorcycle on the road that leads to the 150-hectare Ijaye Farm Settlement. Ganiyu and his brother Kazeem Ganiyu (see picture)  have been farming corn and cassava on the site for more than 20 years.

In a shed made of wood and corrugated metal, and filled with green buckets, wooden benches and roaming chickens, Mutairu Ganiyu presents a perfectly-colored gold piece of hardened corn on the cob. This is how his corn grows, he said, when there’s not contamination. He said aflatoxin-contaminated corn may have green spores. Before Ganiyu learned about aflatoxin, he used to remove the affected kernels and give them to poultry farmers to use for chicken feed.

Now, the Ganiyu brothers use a product called Aflasafe on the corn as it grows. Aflasafe is made of sorghum covered with fungi, and growers throw the blue bead-like particles on corn in the field during the growing phase.

But even corn that’s treated while it grows can become contaminated with aflatoxin after it’s harvested. To combat this, grain needs to be dried out; many Nigerian farmers rely on the sun, and it’s not uncommon to see corn laying on tarps on the side of the road. And this solution often ends up backfiring, because the mold flourishes in Nigeria’s humid climate.

Mechanized drying in the post-harvest stage is also an option. But that can be difficult if you’re a small farmer in a rural area.

“Electricity is still a major issue in many parts of Africa. So if you’re running a dryer that you need to plug it into electricity for long periods of time, it’s practically almost impossible. So the only option that most farmers have is to sun dry.” Mobolaji Omobowale, a researcher at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. 

This is where the Kentucky wind turbine comes in.

  • The Kentucky-based engineers, Akinbode Adedeji and Francis Agbali, want to use the man-made turbines to dry grains.

    “The idea is for farmers to be able build this themselves, In worst-case scenarios it would be an artisan that would replicate the system for farmers. But it would be something that wouldn’t require a university education to replicate; a high school or elementary graduate could build this.”

  • The energy of the turbine would be connected to a blower. 
  • The blower would generate air flux that would be tunneled into a farmer’s drying system, such

    as a grain storage bin or a solar dryer. 

  • This forced air would increase the rate of drying; Adedeji and Agbali say that grains can dry within 24 hours, as opposed to 3-4 days of air drying.

The immediate obstacle is funding. The group — which calls itself the UK Windcats — got about $15,000 to test the apparatus earlier this year. But the group is awaiting another round of funding of about $75,000, which will allow the Kentucky engineers to continue testing the model in Kentucky and travel to Nigeria early next year to test the turbine with farmers.