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Tue, 09 Jul 2019
This South African invention allows drones to plant hundreds of trees in mi...

Two drone enthusiasts have devised a new invention that allows drones to plant large numbers of seeds in minutes.

South African Andries Louw and Australian Andrew Walker built a pneumatic firing module that shoots seeds into soil.

It can spit out two seeds per second at velocities of anywhere between 150 and 300 metres per second. This is faster than the cruising speed of a passenger jet.

The module, called it Podder, can attach to the bottom of popular drone models. Louw and Walker estimate that a team of two, flying 2 drones, can plant up to 40,000 seeds into into the ground in a day. In just ten minutes they can plant what the average human can plant.

The first module was built in a garage in Hermanus, but since then Louw, a certified drone pilot, and Walker, a mechanical engineer based in Sydney, have founded a company called AirSeed Technologies, and hope to use their technology to address deforestation.

Deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels and accounts for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector.

A fleet of their drones could plant 100 million trees a year from 2023, the duo believes.

“Reforestation is where everything starts. Worldwide there is a deficit of 14 billion trees a year, which equates to 1.26 million metric tonnes of lost carbon sequestration every year,” said Louw.

It is a costly business – an average tree costs R30 to plant in Africa. Louw says they can reduce this cost by as much as 70% using drones. The cost is so high because most of the work is done in remote areas which are hard to reach and even harder to plant by hand.

An average hand planter manages around 800 trees a day, said Louw. And it can take long. Germinating the seeds can take anywhere between 3 months to 2 years, depending on the tree.

It’s not the first time seed-planting has been done by air, but the success rate of germination is low.

Drones have also been used, but Louw says payloads have been limited to 150 seeds per flight due to the weight of the seeds, which also needed to be pre-germinated.

So, AirSeed designed a carbon seed pod made from a soil additive called biochar to make them lighter. This highly compressed charcoal is made from the thermochemical conversion of biomass.

The balls come out looking like black paintball bullets. They’re light, weighing as little as 5 grams, and strong – which also means there can be up to a thousand seeds in a single payload.

By compressing seeds into the biochar, the pods act like a natural fertiliser. The seeds also don’t need to be pre-germinated as the carbon is nutrient-rich and can be infused with land-specific microbes and fungi.

“Without the seeds the entire project would mean nothing…We had to come up with a solution for the payload that was light; that was viscus, in other words smooth; that was durable and would not break on impact; and that protected the [...]

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Wed, 05 Jun 2019
Smart drug locker wins top African prize

An invention by a South African engineer that keeps secure and then dispenses pills to patients has won a major African engineering prize.

Neo Hutiri, 31, was announced as the winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, in the Ugandan capital, Kamapla, on Tuesday evening.

Mr Hutiri had to present his invention, along with three other finalists, to a panel of judges and an audience who then voted for what they thought was the best innovation.

Along with a medal, the engineer and his team have won $32,000 (£25,000).

Mr Hutiri’s invention, the Pelebox, “is a simple wall of lockers, controlled by a digital system,” the Royal Academy of Engineering says.

The lockers are stocked by healthcare workers and the patients receive a code to open the locker and get their medicine.

This keeps the medicine safe as well as dramatically reduce waiting times at clinics.

The other inventions in the final were a “high-tech glove that translates sign language to text and speech, a currency exchange platform that moves money between users to reduce the need for foreign exchange… and a business giving women in low-income families access to sustainable, off-grid housing,” the Royal Academy of Engineering says.


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Mon, 13 May 2019
Global power management firm charts a path towards sustainable power for Af...

CAPE TOWN – Microgrid energy systems that incorporate energy storage and renewable energy can be effectively used to address Africa’s challenges of energy access, resiliency, and cost, global power management company Eaton Africa said on Friday.

Eaton Africa said it would be highlighting its drive to provide reliable and sustainable electricity access for all during the upcoming African Utility Week conference, taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from May 14 -16.

“Our key objective is to enable broad access to energy-efficient solutions to Africa that help consumers manage power in a safe, cost-efficient and sustainable manner,” said Seydou Kane, Eaton South Africa’s managing director.

Kane will join other executives within the power and energy sector for the Utility CEO Forum, in which they will discuss utilities’ operational challenges, particularly in a fast-developing market.

The nineteenth edition of African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa is the continent’s leading conference and exhibition in the sector. It is expected to attract more than 10,000 senior level executives, 300 renowned speakers, 350 exhibitors, and 77 utilities and municipalities. South Africa’s Energy Minister Jeff Radebe is due to deliver the opening keynote address at the conference.

Eaton’s senior application leader in microgrid energy systems, Bunty Kiremire said: “Innovations in energy storage and microgrid technology that incorporate renewables are especially important to Africa, where energy access levels average 42 percent, with some countries having access rates as low as 15 percent of the overall population.”

Most commercial, industrial and residential customers who do have access to energy still face issues with respect to the availability and resilience of power, he added.


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