Elliot Avila - Multicrop Thresher - Tanzania
A portable, mechanized threshing machine for Tanzanian crops.
Meet Scale-Ups Fellow, Elliot Avila
Elliot received his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 2014. While at MIT, Elliot took D-Lab: Development, D-Lab:Design, and D-Lab: Cycle Ventures. He traveled with D-Lab to India to work on a solar dryer project as well as natural crayon manufacturing. On a D-Lab trip to Tanzania, he worked on a bicycle-powered corn sheller and an early version of the multicrop thresher. He also completed an undergraduate research project and his senior thesis on the use of computer software to design and analyze a cargo tricycle for Lagos-based former D-Lab Scale-Ups fellow enterprise Wecyclers He attended the 2014 International Development Design Summit held in Tanzania, where he now lives and works.
The issue: Tanzanian smallholder farmers in need of affordable processing equipment.
Tanzania’s economy, like that of many other Sub-Saharan African nations, is heavily reliant upon agriculture and the smallholder farmers who work 91 percent of the land in agricultural use and produce over 75 percent of the agricultural output. The vast majority of these smallholder farmers face a technological gap; because modern agricultural machinery is prohibitively expensive for them, they are left using rudimentary, mostly manual methods for planting, harvesting and processing.
This technological gap is a barrier that limits agricultural productivity, creating an obstacle to both households’ economic growth and nationwide food-security. At a small scale, individual farmers have their production capacity limited by their ability to process their crops, which is a growing problem as most threshing is typically done by family members. This restricts the economic growth of households but also has a larger impact: efforts to improve food-security by increasing food production via irrigation schemes or increased fertilizer usage are undermined by the lack of appropriate and accessible threshing technologies. By filling this technological gap, our MCT can increase agricultural productivity and benefit both smallholder farmers and the country as a whole.
The solution: A powerful, efficient, affordable engine-powered thresher.
Elliot and his team are developing an engine-powered multi-crop thresher (MCT), a machine that can thresh the crops most common in the developing world (rice, maize, wheat, sorghum, barley). Their MCT improves upon traditional methods by eliminating the need for toilsome labor and greatly decreasing the time required to thresh from three hours to just 10 minutes per sack of rice. It is also much more affordable than other modern threshing machinery, such as combine harvesters which can easily cost $50,000 USD; its price is more similar to that of a power tiller, another mechanized agricultural technology that is prevalent in Tanzania.
The MCT is designed as an axial flow thresher. Un-threshed grains are tossed into the entry chute and enter a chamber where a rotating drum beats, squeezes, tumbles, and pushes the grain to separate it from the stalk. Large pieces of chaff are propelled through the machine and expelled at the end, while threshed grain and smaller pieces of chaff fall into the lower section of the machine. These smaller pieces of chaff are removed by a blower, leaving clean grain to be collected by the user.