Monday, 18 January 2016

Solar-Powered Dryer Reduces Wastage and Increases Earnings for Indian Farmers

Solar-Powered Dryer Reduces Wastage and Increases Earnings for Indian Farmers

With upwards of 70% of the population in India either directly or indirectly reliant on agriculture, it is important for small-hold farmers and agribusiness workers to maximize production and minimize loss. Farmers often dry or dehydrate their crops, which preserves them for up to a year. Current methods are costly, and out of dry reach for many small-hold farmers across the developing South.In response, a small Indian student-led start-up has developed a patent for a solar conduction dryer that has proven to be more efficient than dryers currently available and aims to simultaneously decrease wastage and increase incomes for rural farmers in India.

The solar conduction dryer is the first of many innovations developed by Science for Society, an organization comprised of a group of Indian PhD students. It was the grand-prize winner at the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, held in the US last year. The dryer utilizes conduction as the main mode of heat transfer, rather than convection, which is the method found in most dryers available in markets. The unit relies on solar power as its energy source, thereby using the heat generated from the sun to dry and dehydrate various foodstuffs, including fruits and vegetables, grains, fish and other meats. It also utilizes convection and radiation, but predominantly relies on conduction.

Faster and More Efficient

The traditional convection dryers rely purely on electricity to dry food stuffs. This is costly and is often entirely out of reach for poor rural farmers that do not have access to reliable electricity. Usage of the solar conduction dryer, when compared to conventional dryers, has resulted in higher efficiency, reduced processing time, reduced wastage and spoilage, and reduced costs for farmers.
Dried food products also have a higher market value than raw materials, and so increasing a farmer’s ability to preserve their crops gives them a better opportunity for increasing their income when they bring their product to market.
Science for Society is currently looking for ways to bring the dryer to poor rural communities, and has begun a pilot project with a group of rural women in a village near Sawantwadi in Maharashtra, with 20 other dryers being used elsewhere in the country. The UNEP is funding this pilot plant as well as a quality control lab for the processing of the dried food products.

Solar Heating from Scraps and Pop Cans

Solar Heating from Scraps and Pop Cans

Winter makes a lot of things harder, especially for those living in colder regions on a fixed income. Heating costs seem to go up every year, but there is generally little that can be done to offset the bills without heavy investments in insulation or heaters.

Several years ago, a company called Cansolair developed a system of using regular aluminum cans to capture solar heat to help houses stay warm. The cans are painted black and the tops and bottoms are cut off. They fit together to form tubes that are placed inside a box with a clear front. The sun hits the cans, which heat up and force hot air out the top of the unit. Essentially, the aluminum cans act as a heat transfer conduit, which takes cold air from inside a house, heats it, and send it back in, all without any electricity. Unfortunately the company seems to have disappeared, but there is a great video explaining the design here, though Off Grid World.
With a little more looking, we found plenty of similar examples, including this one by tinkerer Rich Allen that uses scraps and cut cans to replace CanSolAir’s pre-fab boxes and precision modification. This design requires fewer tools, can incorporate makeshift materials, and requires fewer cans. YouTube is full of other similar examples, from small units to heat sheds to rooftop units for houses.
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There are a couple of issues with the idea, particularly for low-income areas. First, finding the appropriate materials may be difficult, as is access to the tools and knowledge to put one together. Second, the unit works only in the day (and efficiently only in full sun), so it will likely never be a full replacement for pre-existing heating systems. Without the battery storage system of traditional solar panels, the heat cannot be stored or dispersed evenly over the day. However, as we’ve seen repeatedly through ideas we highlight on our site, there is no end people’s ability to find a way around technical hurdles. Even if the design only augments other types of heating, anything helps if it cuts costs.
We’d love to hear about similar designs and ways to make this idea more accessible

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Shelter Design Helps Refugees Weave Lives Back Together

“Originally published by Innovate  Development. Re-published here with their permission,”

More than 40 million people around the world have been displaced by conflict and other emergencies. Many end up sleeping under tarps and tents in terrible living conditions, far from the homes they once knew. These temporary homes are often made of plastic that shreds quickly and starts to leak. Canvas tents last longer, but they trap heat when the sun is up and hold in dampness during the night.

Tents of all kinds collapse under snow, and offer little insulation from the elements and outside noises. They are also highly flammable, and are at risk of devastating fire when cooking is done nearby or electrical wires are strung through camps. Now, with the number of the world’s refugees and displaced reaching ever higher numbers, the question of how best to shelter them has become more pressing than ever.
Shelter Inspired by Nature
A Jordanian-Canadian architect named Abeer Seikaly is attempting to find an answer to that question through a tent she designed herself. She began to work on the tent design in 2013, after Jordan experienced a massive influx of Syrian refugees, and she found their shelters to be non-functional and uninspired. The tent is made of a lightweight fabric that allows it fold down flat or pop out into a dome shape. The fabric has a double-layer surface and was inspired by materials found in nature and in cultural activities such as weaving.
For warmer climates, the surface has panels that can open to provide ventilation. These panels can also close to trap heat in the winter. When it rains, water is filtered down the sides into storage pockets. The tent uses a system called thermosiphoning that can draw the water back up from the pockets if the inhabitant wishes to shower. Solar energy is also transferred from the shelter fabric into a battery for a power source. The tents are five meters in diameter and 2.4 meters high, but the design is scalable to other dimensions.
Seikaly, who calls her project ‘Weaving a Home,’ won the Lexus Design Award in 2013. Her design goes well beyond basic needs. She says, “Disasters break down community. Shelters must transform the remains into something new. Basic needs are not enough. If the environment isn’t beautiful, it affects the way we behave in a negative way.” Her tents are meant to provide a way for refugees to settle in a new land and to provide them with better living conditions so that they can begin to put their lives back together.
More Comfortable And Substainable

Seikaly is currently working with engineers in Britain to create a plan to produce the tents. Since she is still finalizing the design, she doesn’t yet have a plan for when the tents will be available, but hopes to put them into widespread use in the near future. In the meantime, she is also planning how the tents will be introduced to refugee communities and considering what the unit cost will be.
Refugee communities are meant to be temporary, but many people must endure their terrible conditions for years and even decades. This design tries to make those camps more comfortable and sustainable. Seikaly recognizes that wars and natural disasters will always displace people, but she believes that people can still have the opportunity to live happily. “It’s about giving people back their dignity,” she says. “A home is not a place where we happen to live. It’s a place where we are able to express ourselves, and a refuge from the outside world.”

Author Archives: Valerie Busch

Valerie Busch

Valerie is a development professional based in Toronto, Ontario.


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