By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Purdue University agricultural scientist Klein Ileleji has developed two technologies that will quickly and hygienically dry nearly any food, from fruit to grain to seeds.
The first is the Dehytray, a food dehydration tray with a protective cover that concentrates solar energy for faster drying times. The second is the Dehymeleon, a solar dryer which can hold 10 Dehytrays that can store extra solar energy for use as a power generator at night.
Born in Nigeria but raised in Ghana, Ileleji said in a recent interview in Smithsonian Magazine, “We were doing a survey on farmers’ challenges, and one of the biggest challenges was aflatoxin in their grains, and the primary cause of that was improperly dried grains. . .In Ghana was the first time I encountered it first-hand.”
The trays, which are about three feet long and come in a variety of colors combat aflatoxins, produced by molds growing on crops like corn and peanuts. The dehydrators run on free natural energy, since many developing world farmers don’t have reliable access to electricity.
“Temperatures inside the DEHYTRAY are doubled compared with conventional drying methods that rely on the sun, thereby achieving a faster drying rate, especially on cloudy days,” he said, in a recent Purdue University interview.
The trays can be used in the sun with protective covers, or stacked inside a dehydrator for larger-scale drying. They retail for $125 for customers in North America, Europe, Japan, Singapore, and Australia; customers in other regions get individualized quotes. Farmers can use them to dry nearly any food.
Because of the way they concentrate sunlight, the trays dry crops far more quickly than open sun, shaving up to a day off dehydration times.
He and his wife Reiko launched JUA Technologies International to develop drying technologies. The word ‘jua’ in Kiswhahili means ‘sun.’ The company received $150,000 in federal and state grants to upgrade their technology.
The Dehytray is already on the market and a distributor in Kenya will help the couple distribute the dehydration trays in African countries.
The Dehytray won a product innovation award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. It was also a finalist in the food category of the Fast Company World Changing Ideas awards.