JUA Technologies Develops Crop Dryer to Battle Food Scarcity

Posted: Updated:
JUA Technologies plans to produce about 250 dryers for beta testing in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and the U.S. JUA Technologies plans to produce about 250 dryers for beta testing in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and the U.S.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Dr. Klein Ileleji knows first-hand the challenges farmers face in developing countries, and it’s inspired his invention that uses the muscle of Mother Nature. Long-term crop storage is critical in developing countries for a reliable food supply, but due to moisture in a fresh state, they must be dried first. Farmers in developing countries often spread crops along the roadside to dry—a method riddled with problems. An associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, Ileleji has developed a solar-powered crop dryer that still relies on the sun, but also harnesses the power of technology.

Ileleji says, in developing countries, as much as $20 billion worth of food goes to waste per year, largely because it’s not dried properly.

“In developing countries…it’s very common to see people drying crops by the roadside, on the road itself or on the median, because it’s a large hard surface,” says Ileleji. “I’ve seen crops take up half the road in Ecuador.”

In addition to not being sanitary, the crops can be ruined by insects or animals. Ileleji believes his solar-powered crop drying device could be the answer for small-scale farmers; he’s co-founded West Lafayette-based JUA Technologies International LLC to commercialize the product. The company name is inspired by the Swahili word for sun, which is “jua.”

The technology consists of two components: drying trays that are loaded into the device and the dryer itself. Ileleji says the trays can be used independently of the dryer; they have a protective cover and can dry crops traditionally in the sun. The trays can also be stacked inside the dryer, which deploys modern technology to accelerate and improve the drying process.

“Energy from the sun is brought into the chamber, where crops will be in the trays, being dried by fans powered by the solar panel,” says Ileleji. “Radiant energy from the sun is being captured on a surface, which heats up the air; that air is pulled into the drying chamber by fans that are powered by the solar panel.”

The device produces a high-temperature, high air-flow and low-humidity environment—the ideal condition for efficiently drying crops.

“We want to have units produced in the thousands,” says Ileleji, who is JUA Technologies chief executive officer and chief technology officer. “We want it to be as common as buying an oven or cell phone; you bring it home, set it up, and it’s ready to go.”

JUA Technologies expects to produce about 250 dryers for beta testing and is focusing its initial efforts in three developing countries: Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya. While a dryer holds fewer crops than a tarp on the roadside, Ileleji says it’s sanitary, affordable and will protect the value of farmers’ crops; quality fruits and vegetables could be exported and command a high market value.

“Rather than it taking three days to dry [crops] on the ground, it takes about 10 hours to dry in the dryer,” says Ileleji. “It might be in smaller units, but you’re increasing the throughput.”

JUA Technologies is also testing the device in the U.S. with small farmers in Indiana and Georgia who are using it to dry things like herbs, flowers and spices.

The startup earned $20,000 from the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund, and Ileleji’s work is also part of a USAID project that focuses on post-harvest food handling and processing.

JUA Technologies is currently working with African-based manufacturers that could help scale up production. Ileleji says his motivation for creating a company is to grow the technology to help address one of the world’s grand challenges.

“As we look at food security in the world, especially with the population expected to increase to nine billion by 2050, addressing issues that will affect all of us on the globe is something that interests me,” says Ileleji. “Unless we have companies with a bold vision putting people and technology together, we’re not going to solve these problems for small farmers and address global food insecurities. That’s the culture I want to bring to JUA. No one is stepping up to do that, so we need to.”

Ileleji says his bold vision for the startup aligns with Purdue University’s desire to address global agriculture issues.
Ileleji says the dryer will come with optional auxiliary power to increase its efficiency on cloudy or rainy days.
  • Perspectives

    • World Refugee Day Shines Light on Untapped Pool of Talented Workers

      From Fortune 500 companies to local small businesses, a similar theme rings true. In this strong economy where unemployment is low and growth is high, companies are competing for top talent. In Indianapolis - according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics - unemployment is just 2.8 percent, and investment and job growth are on the rise. This is great news for Indianapolis-area residents looking for work or opportunities to advance their careers, but for businesses and...
    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Lilly Exec Named BioCrossroads CEO

      After a national search, BioCrossroads has announced Patty Martin will become the life science initiative's next president and chief executive officer. Martin, who most recently served as chief operating officer for Lilly Diabetes, will begin her new role Monday. She will become just the third CEO in the organization's 17-year history, and succeeds David Johnson, who in December announced plans to step down from the role to serve as president and CEO of the...

    • (file photo courtesy of Radial)

      Radial Opens Fulfillment Center in Brownsburg

      Pennsylvania-based Radial Inc. says its new fulfillment center in Brownsburg is now open. The e-commerce technology and operations company says the nearly 700,000-square-foot facility is the largest in its network and will have the capacity to house about 2,000 employees.

    • Holcomb will chair the 2019 conference, set for November 7 in Indianapolis.

      Janet Holcomb to Chair Conference For Women

      Indiana First Lady Janet Holcomb will serve as chair for this year's Indiana Conference for Women. Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the ninth annual conference, in Indianapolis in November. Holcomb's career includes a stint as vice president of her family's bolt and fastener manufacturing business, R&R Engineering. She has also led fundraising efforts for political campaigns as well as nonprofit organizations focusing in areas including animal welfare, arts and...

    • (rendering courtesy of Jones Development Co.)

      New Business Park Planned for Whiteland

      Missouri-based Jones Development Co. has begun construction on a new business park in Johnson County. The 2.4 million-square-foot Whiteland Exchange will be located on 167 acres near I-65 in Whiteland.  Financial terms of the developer's investment in the project were not disclosed. The business park is slated to include modern industrial buildings for logistics, advanced manufacturing and related uses. Work is underway on the first two speculative buildings, which total nearly...

    • Franciscan Health Details Data Breach

      Mishawaka-based Franciscan Health is providing details of a data breach. The health system says an internal investigation found one of its employees accessed the protected health information of about 2,200 patients "without a business reason."  Franciscan says the vast majority of the affected medical records was limited to demographic information such as name, address, email address, date of birth, phone number, gender, race/ethnicity, the last four digits of...