After visiting farmers in East Africa, the design team was curious to see if affordable, off-the-shelf sensors could help prevent crop spoilage. In places like Tanzania and Kenya, corn and maize are susceptible to common molds, such as aflatoxin, while they’re in storage. This is bad news for farmers, who lose their investment when the crop spoils.
Turns out, identifying some conditions for spoilage can be quite simple. Some molds and other causes of spoilage really only require high humidity and high temperature. By housing a $4 temperature-and-humidity sensor in a 3D-printed shell, the team created the Spoilage Sensor, which notifies farmers or storage owners when the conditions are right for spoilage and gives them time to correct it. The Spoilage Sensor was equipped with GPS so that farmers could test conditions while the grain is in transit from storage to sale.
As the team centered its efforts on Myanmar instead of East Africa, the Spoilage Sensor fell to the wayside. In Myanmar the vast majority of grain storage space goes to rice, a crop where aflatoxin isn’t particularly prevalent. The team still believes that a Spoilage Sensor could have considerable application through East Africa, and provide an affordable way for farmers to keep tabs on their crops from field to warehouse and beyond.