Bitterleaf washing machine? Yes, young talents from Anambra State, Atikpo Chukwuebuka and Ubaka Chukwuebuka, have developed a prototype bitterleaf washing machine while expecting investments to build the finished product.
The two brothers, who are based in Awka, Anambra State are out to strengthen the country’s agricultural sector using technology, help create employment, and support made-in-Nigeria agenda.
This burning desire pushed them to engage in some tedious menial jobs to raise N125,000 seed capital to source raw materials locally to invent a bitterleaf washing machine they called Oganiihu E².
The two actually started working on this project while they were in Secondary School.
Currently, Atikpo is a 200-level Polymer and Textile Engineering Undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, while the brother, Ubaka is a school leaver who is presently seeking admission into the University.
However, the two brothers wanted a perfect solution to Nigeria’s farmers’ plights during the processing of the biter leaf for export.
This machine, the inventors told TechEconomy.ng, will help in easy processing of the food item; getting them ready for both local consumption and export.
What is the economic value of bitterleaf that this machine will enhance?
Barely a year ago, Anambra State Government made headlines when it became the first State in Nigeria to export vegetables (Ugu and Onugbu (bitterlead)), valued at $5m to Europe.
This machine is even more critical in processing bitterleaf for preservation. For instance, in a PremiumTimes report of December 2016 the Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFPGEAN) says between 55% and 72% of fresh produce grown in the country perish before they can be consumed.
The Executive Secretary of the association, Akin Sawyerr, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Monday that this was because fresh produce needed to be kept in refrigerated conditions soon after harvest.
No doubt, the development of this machine into an industrial-finished product and put to use, will stimulate large scale processing of bitterleaf for local consumption and export.
It will also enhance diversification of entrepreneur to site processing plants in the rural areas which will improve the quality of life of the rural population and reduce the rate of rural-urban migration as this would become a serious business; providing source of livelihood for young people and also play an important role in the improvement of the health of Nigerians and the economy at large.
Botanically, bitterleaf is called Vernonia amygdalina Delile and from the family of Asteraceae or Compositae.
The plant is consumed locally as food and serves important ethnomedicinal uses.
It grows throughout tropical Africa to a height of about 1– 5 metres and it is indigenous to many West African Countries.
According to studies, parts of the plants are used locally for the treatment of fever, Stomach disorder, jaundice, worm infestation, constipation, malaria, hiccups, kidney problems, amoebic dysentery, schistosomiasis, cough, wounds, diabetes, laxative, veneral diseases and other bacterial and protozoal infection.
Atikpo and Ubaka explain:
“This is an improved mechanized bitterleaf machine whose Nigerian name we gave to be (Oganiihu E²) which means success/Forward ever.
“This machine is first of its kind in the world i.e Nigerian invention.
“This is a machine that washes bitterleaf and it doesn’t stop at washing, it also uses the bitterleaf by-products like bitterleaf juice into the production or conversion of useful substances such as: fertilizer; methanol and a new type of tea which is similar to Lipton tea (Vernonia tea)”, Atikpo said.
TechEconomy.ng learnt the portable types of the bitterleaf washing machine can be exported.
“We welcome investors including government, to work with us on this project that will lead to the creation of bitterleaf plantations and industries in many parts of Nigeria.
“Already our dear State- is exporting bitter lead. But with our invention, we believe it will lead to massive production of bitterleaf that can even be exported out of the country”; Ubaka.
How does the machine work?
Processing bitterleaf using the machine goes through three phases:
- The rinsing processes: That is the stage where the bitterleaf is been rinsed for hygienic purpose using the chamber created for it.
- The main chamber receives the rinsed bitterleaf and starts the meshing or washing process. At this point the bitterleaf is ‘crushed’ or sliced into piece that will make it edible.
- The finished product or the output will be almost like that of the hand washed bitterleaf.
What is the investment outlook for the inventors?
The brothers are seeking for investments to upgrade the machine to meet the design expectations such as making it sizable for kitchens (home use).
“We already have our go-to market plans which include our market approach, the packaging of our products. We have industrial plans for the machine and that of home and portable way of making the machine for family satisfaction.
“We need encouragement because we still have more innovation and improvement we need to set to this machine which we are asking investors to come in and help us achieve the goal of one time SS1/SS2 students in 2015
“We need and enabling environment and funds to achieve all this and we want to still change the narrative let’s show the world what we can add to the environment”, Atikpo said during a chat with TechEconomy.ng.