The Agricultural Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST) has developed a special cassava harvester designed to enhance the mechanisation of root and tuber crops cultivation, particularly cassava and yam.
The device ‘Tek Mechanical Cassava Harvester’ (TEK-MCH) has been engineered to address the difficulty in commercially harvesting root and tuber crops. Manual harvesting reflects drudgery and time consumption, especially in the dry seasons, and has been the bane of commercial production for these crops.
The development and adoption of the 300kg mass and one metre wide machine with slatted conical mould-board is one solution proposed to unlock the huge cassava potential as food and for industrial use: the TEK-MCH can harvest a hectare within a maximum of two hours.
Speaking at a field demonstration exercise held at the Wenchi Agricultural Station, the inventor, Prof. Emmanuel Y.H. Bobobee, said it was developed as far back as 1994 but did not see the light of the day until 2011 when the Department received funding from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP) to popularise it.
He said the device has since been evaluated in Ghana and South Africa for large-scale cassava production. Should relevant authorities and stakeholders embrace TEK-MCH, it will be a game-changer for cassava production in Africa where it largely depends on aging labour, he added.
“The low level of engineering technology inputs into agriculture is one main constraint hindering the modernisation of agriculture and food production in Africa and some other parts of the world. Until recently, there were no commercial mechanical cassava harvesters for the crop’s production.
“Support is needed to quick-start commercial-scale manufacturing of the device; carry out market research, advertise and promote it among cassava growers and starch producers in Africa and beyond,” Prof. Bobobee said.
According to him, lack of funding and motivation such as official endorsements have relegated many research findings and innovations to gathering dust, saying: “Government must identify some of these success stories and cushion them with the needed supports to aid agricultural transformation”.
In an interview with B&FT, Techiman-based Cassava Processor Daniel Kofi Sakyi, who has benefited from the device, described the impact of TEK-MCH on his business as “immeasurable”. He said his suppliers [farmers] are easily able to supply him with cassava throughout the year to produce about 10.8 metric tonnes a day.