Tek mechanical Cassava harvester developed
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is important food security, industrial and energy crop in the world. Its roots provide dietary carbohydrates for over 800 million people. Global production in 2012 was 282 million tonnes, with 56% by Africa, 30% by Asia, and 14% produced in South America.
The low level of engineering technology inputs into agriculture is one main constraint hindering the modernization of agriculture and food production in many parts of the developing world.
Harvesting is a major constraint to commercialise cassava production in sub-Saharan Africa. Manual cassava harvesting is a painful, stressful and time-consuming activity full of drudgery especially, during the dry season.
Until recently, there are no commercial mechanical cassava harvesters in use by cassava growers in Africa. This makes cassava production to be full of drudgery, unattractive to the youth and dependent on ageing farmers, who produce limited outputs with little export potential.
The development and use of a device to harvest cassava mechanically are one solution proposed to unlock the huge potential of cassava as an industrial and export crop.
A prototype mechanical cassava harvester of 300 kg mass and one metre wide with slatted conical mouldboard has been developed at KNUST and evaluated in Ghana and South Africa for large-scale production.
Cassava as climate-smart and resilient crop provides excellent insurance against famine for farmers. It is also a biofuel source that can replace fossil fuel.
To create awareness about the harvester innovation, field demonstration, training of farmers and tractor operators to adopt best practice to comply with mechanised operations must be stepped up.
This is to introduce and popularise the harvester to farmers, tractor owners, scientists, entrepreneurs, donors, policymakers and other stakeholders in the cassava value chain on the continent.
The harvester has no moving parts, is robust, durable and easy to maintain. The only replaceable part of is the digging blade that wears after harvesting several hectares.
The Future of Cassava
Support is needed to train farmers and operators, carry out more awareness creation, advertise and promote the device among the youth, cassava growers and starch producers in Africa.
Continuous scientific and technical backstopping by the research team will develop soil specific durable blades to prolong lifespan and reliability of the device for users to sustain and improve the technology.
The TEK Mechanical Cassava Harvester (TEK MCH) is lighter and does not require any dedicated high power-rated tractors. The device can be pulled by existing tractors owned by small-scale farmers on the continent. Funds are needed to undertake more market research, develop durable blades, train manufacturers and tractor operators in the proper production, operation, repairs & maintenance of the implement during this initial introductory stage
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