Startup developing solar-powered crop-drying devices for small farmers receives grants worth $150,000
This post originally appeared on Purdue's website for Research Foundation News.
JUA Technologies International, a Purdue University-affiliated startup developing solar-powered crop-drying devices, has received federal and state grants worth $150,000 to help further develop the technology.
JUA Technologies International received a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $50,000 match investment from Elevate Ventures, through the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Elevate Ventures is a venture development organization that supports the development and success of entrepreneurs across Indiana.
The company was co-founded by the husband-wife team of Klein Ileleji, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, and Reiko Habuto Ileleji, a Purdue alumna who earned her PhD from Purdue’s College of Education.
Klein Ileleji said the money will be used to take JUA Technologies’ Dehymeleon, which can serve as a multipurpose solar dryer and a power generator, from the initial research and development stage to advance research in its improved thermal collector and smart control system designs for drying of various crops and multipurpose use.
The grants will enable JUA Technologies to test “proof of concepts” of its multi-crop drying algorithms that would position it to progress toward designing a product for manufacture and commercialization.
Drying crops so they can be stored is essential in developing countries, where farmers often spread crops along the roadside to dry. Ileleji estimates that as much as $20 billion worth of food goes to waste each year in developing countries because it is not dried properly. The National Institutes of Health estimates that a third of food is lost after harvest because of mold, insects and improper drying.
The Dehymeleon will be marketed to small growers in the United States and in developing countries, Ileleji said. It can be used for grains, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, medicinal plants as well as tea, coffee and cocoa.
In the U.S., the technology is aimed at people who grow products to be sold at farmers markets.
“The Dehymeleon will be used by small and mid-size growers of specialty crops that have added value through drying,” Ileleji said.
He is working on developing an advanced solar heat collector that would enable 24-hour drying, even on days when the sun isn’t shining. He also is working on an advanced electronic control system that will allow users to set temperatures to optimize the drying for each particular crop category.
“You will be able to use the Dehymeleon to preserve essential nutrients in medicinal plants, tea, coffee and cocoa, which are very sensitive to temperature and ultraviolet light,” Ileleji said.
Ileleji also has signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Agricultural Research Service’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California. It will enable the testing of prototypes of the Dehymeleon to study the rates of drying, nutrients profiles within the dried crops and other aspects of the drying in California, where a large number of specialty crops are grown in the U.S.
Ileleji believes that when he is done with those studies, JUA Technologies will be ready to move ahead with its plans to begin design for manufacture of the Dehymeleon.
JUA Technologies International, which gets its name from the Kiswahili word jua, meaning sun and “to know,” also has another product, called the Dehytray. It can dry products faster than the traditional open-sun drying technique by 24 hours under average conditions because temperatures inside are double the conventional drying methods that rely on the sun.
The concepts for the Dehytray and Dehymeleon were developed as part of the Purdue-led U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed-the-Future Innovation Lab project for Food Processing and Post-Harvest Handling.
Fast Company magazine in April selected Dehytray as one of a dozen finalists for “World Changing Ideas” in the food category. In February, the Dehytray was awarded the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers AE50 product design award.
The technology used by JUA Technologies International is licensed through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization
This technology aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the university’s global advancements made in sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. It is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.
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