At the beginning of the year, I had the pleasure of spending the day with someone I believe is soon going to make headlines. For weeks our headlines have been filled with names of young inventors who are proudly Ghanaian. Now here’s another name to add to that list; Isaac Sesi the inventor of The GrainMate Grain Moisture Tester!
Isaac is a graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) who studied Electrical and Electronic engineering. He is an embedded systems engineer and software developer, largely self-taught, thanks to the internet. Since childhood he had always been fascinated by how electronic devices work and it grew into a desire to learn how to build electronic devices.
Sesi has been involved with several practical projects which had the potential to reach production stage. Some innovative devices including a fuel monitoring and tracking solution complete with a mobile app, commercial grade radio transceivers, access control systems, robots and more. Sadly, none of these went beyond the prototype stage because the conditions were not right.
So far, the moisture tester is Isaac’s most successful project but that is not the end. His goal is to develop several affordable tech solutions for the Agric industry in Africa and GrainMate is the first step to achieving that goal.
The GrainMate Grain Moisture Tester originated from a USAID research project that Isaac co-led as part of a research at the Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering at KNUST with the help of Anne-Marie Abeasi (Electrical Engineer) and Zakaria Ayatul-Lahi (Computer Engineer). The goal of the research project was to devise a way to reduce post-harvest losses in grain crops by manufacturing affordable, low cost grain moisture testers for grain farmers. With grain moisture testers, farmers can accurately and objectively measure the moisture content in grains to enable them store the grains at the recommended temperature to reduce the growth of aflatoxins which are one of the biggest contributors to post-harvest losses in warm and humid parts of the world.
The most fascinating part of all this is that Isaac and his team successfully produced the moisture testers locally from a small production facility in Kumasi. After the research project, they went further to turn it into a business and start manufacturing the moisture testers commercially. This is how the GrainMate Grain Moisture Tester was born.
Isaac and his team believe that GrainMate will help grain farmers reduce post-harvest losses, which has been a major problem. Currently sub-Saharan Africa loses $4billion annually due to postharvest losses in grains which is very alarming when you think of it in terms of the world’s increasing food demands. With technology like GrainMate, these losses can be cut down from 40% to as little as 5%. For farmers this will mean more money in their pockets and more food for their families.
Despite targeting countries in sub-Saharan Africa, they’ve already received orders from the US and the UK!
How does the GrainMate Grain Moisture Tester work? It has a long probe containing a temperature and humidity sensor which measures temperature and relative humidity in the grain. The equilibrium model for the particular grain type is used to compute the moisture for that particular grain type. Currently GrainMate supports several of the most popular grains grown in Ghana and Africa such as wheat, sorghum, maize, chickpea, soya bean and rice. It is also ideal for poultry farmers who want to know the moisture content in their bird feed.
The original grain moisture testers started in March 2017; however GrainMate only begun in December 2017 after the research project was completed. They are currently developing a 2nd generation of GrainMate which is more durable and has more features compared to the first generation. Farmers who have had the opportunity to test the GrainMate are excited about its potential to reduce post-harvest losses among grains, helping them increase profits from their produce.
Like most projects, there were some challenges. According to Isaac, some equipment was not available locally and had to be imported. Also, skilled embedded systems engineers are very difficult to find. There aren’t many companies manufacturing electronic devices in Ghana so you also don’t have many people studying embedded systems and being good at it.
At the moment the retail price for a GrainMate unit is Ghc500. They have no official government backing at the moment; however The GrainMate Team is in conversation with the Ministry of Agriculture to produce GrainMate units for extension officers in Ghana.
You can watch a video of how the GrainMate Moisture tester works below