Professor Olawale John Olukunle of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA and his research Team, the Technology Incubation, Development, Promotion and Utilization Group, have developed a self- propelled water hyacinth harvester.
The innovation is timely, unique and aimed at solving major national problems. The machine which is very stable on the waterways removes water hyacinth by cutting, storing and offloading water hyacinth from the barge. The materials for the fabrication of the barge and other components of the harvester were all sourced locally making mass production possible and feasible. The machine consists of a cutting mechanism, a loading conveyor, offloading conveyor, power units, a central control unit and a steering.
The harvester was built with the following specification: Total Machine Weight 10 Tons; Loading Conveyor 10 Tons/h; Offloading Conveyor 60 Tons/h; Cutting Depth 1.00 m Storage Capacity 5 Tons, 1.2 m Adjustable Cutting Depth, Cutting Material –Stainless Steel, Barge Capacity (2 X 8 X 3 )m3 Harvester Rated Power 50hp; Harvester Width 2.6 m; Cutting Material Stainless Steel; Number of Passengers on board 3; The machine is expected to be operated at low speed to ensure effective harvesting operation. This machine when used on waterways will eliminate many problems associated with the spread of water hyacinth and other aquatic weeds. Water hyacinth and other sea weeds are major threats to fishing and navigation in the riverine areas of Nigeria.
Professor Cornelius Ademosun also of the Department of Agricultural Engineering, FUTA made appreciable efforts in 1991 to develop a mechanical harvester to remove water hyacinth. However, the sponsors of the project did not supply barge to house the components. This hindered further developments on the research work at that time. Other methods of removal of water weeds which include biological and chemical methods have severe and uncontrollable consequences on aquatic animals and on biodiversity. The present effort is aimed at combating the menace of water weeds and convert/transform this menace to wealth. Water Hyacinth when removed mechanically in this manner can be transformed into paper, briquettes, fertilizers, animal and fish feed, ceiling boards etc.
The project was financed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Abuja as part of its commitment to rehabilitate the Dam in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife where the trial was carried out. The inventor, Prof. Olawale John Olukunle praised the contributions of the Director of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Engr. Benson Ajisegiri ; Engr Lasith – the Project Manager and Engr. Justin Fayankin- the Project Consultant who facilitated the Design and Fabrication of the Water Hyacinth Harvester. This innovative approach will enhance waterway transportation, welfare of aquatic lives and those of riverine communities and consequently boost industrial and economic development. The new innovation includes a barge and the various components required for effective clearing and removal of water weeds from inland water ways.
The Federal University of Technology, Akure is willing to commence the commercial production of the machine in order to ease the problems associated with water weed infestation of waterways. The University is therefore calling on well-meaning Nigerians, Philanthropists, the various tiers of Government particularly the Federal Government, Governors of oil producing states, Lagos and Ogun states and other stakeholders to join forces with the Technology Incubation, Development, Promotion and Utilization Group of the Federal University of Technology, Akure in order to make this technology available to the end users.
The Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) under the leadership of its Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Adeola Fuwape is making giant strides in the area of Technology, having carved a niche for herself in line with its motor” Technology for Self Reliance.
The University is notable for special inventions in the areas of Food Security, Power Generation and Space Technology. FUTA has always been responsive and proactive in her drive to support government calls for homegrown technology to solve national problems and hence provide enhance living conditions for Nigerians.