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Exploring small-scale peanut machines for Ghana

Peanut buyers and researchers in southern Africa have welcomed a small-scale, mechanized peanut shelling system produced by the Peanut Innovation Lab that allows them to shell and sort nuts in a fraction of the time it takes to do the tasks by hand. The system includes several prototype models of precise, but small-scale shellers, aspirators and sizing shakers that can be motorized or hand-cranked.

Now, the Peanut Innovation Lab is working with an equipment manufacturer in Ghana to see if similar machines could be made there. 

SAYeTECH, an equipment fabricator in Ghana that has a working relationship with the Soybean Innovation Lab, is exploring the possibility of manufacturing these models and also adapting their well-known multi-crop thresher to use with peanuts. Building on the relationship with the Soybean IL, the Peanut IL recently hosted  SAYeTECH’s Jeffrey B. Appiagyei on a trip to South Georgia to meet with Frank Nolin, the man who designed and fabricated small-scale peanut processing machines used in several countries in Africa, the U.S. and the Caribbean.  

“We’ve worked with Frank for many years on several technologies at different scales. He has tons experience with the peculiarities of peanut processing and is very practical and generous. Every small project leads to several others because of the need and opportunity,” said Peanut Innovation Lab Assistant Director Jamie Rhoads.

Mechanizing the time-intensive process of shelling by hand not only can increase production, but also improves quality, since nuts must be shelled to be tested for moisture and aflatoxin. Quick screening for contamination allows groundnut buyers to select the highest quality nuts, which gives farmers incentives to follow best practices.

In February, Appiagyei traveled to South Georgia with Rhoads to meet with Nolin, a semi-retired engineer who worked for decades manufacturing the large-scale equipment that serves Georgia’s peanut industry. Since selling his business, Nolin Steel, to his son, Frank has also started a new business, Frank’s Designs for Peanut, to address the specific need in these emerging markets. Appiagyei was able to inspect prototype machines made by Nolin and brainstorm how they might work in West Africa. 

Now back home in Ghana, Appiagyei is exploring how he might adapt the existing multi-crop thresher with Nolin’s designs for peanuts to both thresh and shell peanuts.

The multi-crop thresher created through collaboration with the Soybean Innovation Lab works well with soybean, cowpea, maize, millet, sorghum, beans, barley, wheat and rice, but it breaks peanuts during the threshing process. 

Multi-crop threshers, as opposed to single-crop threshers, are more attractive to both farmers and services providers, according to research by the Soybean Innovation Lab.

“After speaking to Frank and Jamie, I see how the multi-crop thresher design can be modified to thresh peanuts,” said Appiagyei, who will share the designs for a peanut-adapted multi-crop thresher when it is complete.

The Peanut Innovation Lab works to improve peanut production, increase food safety, and  raise awareness about the nutritional value of peanut in developing countries. 

SAYeTECH builds smart agricultural machinery using a human-centered design approach to fit the needs of African producers. 

Ghana groundnut group holds second meeting

The Ghana Groundnut Working Group, a gathering of scientists, aggregators, farmers and others involved in the peanut value chain across Ghana met this month for the second annual conference. 

The two-day meeting convened in Tamale, Ghana, 11-12 March at the Modern City Hotel.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut and David Jordan of North Carolina State University helped to support the event in its inaugural year, while a local committee has worked throughout the past several months to plan the 2020 gathering. Principal organizers include Mumuni Abudulai, chief research scientist for CSIR’s Savanna Agricultural Research Institute; George Mahama, an agronomist with SARI in Wa; Richard Akromah, professor at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; Moses Mochiah, director of CSIR’s Crops Research Institute; and Jerry Nboyine of the CSIR.

The group’s mission is to share knowledge about research and to set priorities for future studies.

Over two days of meetings, the group heard research presentations from graduate students (some studying with Peanut Innovation Lab support), learned new strategies for controlling aflatoxin, held panel discussions about strengthening the value chain, and explored ways to improve and grow  the group in the future.

USAID administrator Green rejoins private sector

Mark Green, who directed USAID for two and a half years, is resigning and returning to private- sector work.

Green, a former Republican congressman, drew bipartisan support in the Senate when he was confirmed USAID administrator  in 2017. He led USAID with a philosophy that foreign aid programs should create independent systems so that aid becomes unnecessary, while also stressing the importance of relief help in times of disaster or crisis.

“The purpose of foreign assistance is to end the need for its existence,” Green wrote to staffers. “The work of USAID every day provides a powerful return on investment to the American taxpayers for our national security, our economic growth — this generosity is simply in our DNA.”

As the head of USAID, he led disaster and emergency relief efforts in developing countries and was instrumental in combating the ebola virus in Africa. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Green for his leadership and work for USAID. 

“Mark Green has been a brilliant Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and it is with deep gratitude and respect I wish him well as he returns to the private sector next month.

“Since his tenure as Administrator began in August 2017, he has worked to make USAID a stronger, more responsive agency –  one that is defined and driven by the deep compassion of the American people. … I want to thank Mark Green for his many decades of public service, and know he is leaving his Agency in a strong and vital position to address the new challenges this century will bring to us.”

Pompeo cited the challenges USAID helped to address in Green’s tenure, including earthquakes in Mexico, cyclones in Mozambique, Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas, the outbreak of Ebola in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the plague of locusts in East Africa, and the spread of COVID-19, as well as political upheavals. 

Post doc positions open with World Vegetable Center

World Vegetable Center has three new openings for postdoc positions in Taiwan:
    Postdoctoral Scientist – Vegetable Breeding

    Postdoctoral Scientist – Phenotyping

    Postdoctoral Scientist – Plant Pathology

The deadline for applications is 15 April 2020.

American Peanut Council delays planned forum in Budapest

The American Peanut Council has postponed this year’s International Peanut Forum which was planned for April 22-24. 

“We take the health and safety of our delegates, speakers, and staff seriously and have been closely following the travel advisories and other restrictions issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the organization said in an announcement.

“We are working with the hotel in Budapest to reschedule the event for later this year or early next year. As soon as arrangements are finalized, we will advise everyone. Thank you for your understanding.”

UGA’s Kemerait awarded Fulbright funding

University of Georgia plant pathologist and the expert behind the state’s risk management tool for peanut, PeanutRx, Bob Kemerait has been awarded funding as a Fulbright Specialist to lecture and advise through Mariano Marcos State University in the Philippines.

Kemerait will work in the Philippines in the last part of March and the first part of April, providing advice to small-scale farmers who have limited mechanization and other resources, but rely on peanut as one of their few cash-crop options. While there, he also will meet with graduate students, lecture in several venues and draft a proposal for on-going work.

While he currently isn’t working on a Peanut Innovation Lab project, Kemerait has worked with the program in the past.

Georgia Seed Development names Bill Branch to new professor post for peanut breeding

University of Georgia professor William “Bill” Branch was named the Georgia Seed Development Professor in Peanut Breeding and Genetics.

Branch, the breeder behind Georgia-06G, joined UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1978, and has developed more than 20 new peanut varieties to increase yield and grade, as well as strengthen resistance characteristics, better shelling characteristics and enhanced flavor and nutrition.

The professorship was established with support from Georgia Seed Development (GSD) to enhance the field of plant breeding, genetics, and genomics programs through professorships and research programs at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). Check out the story.