Flemish students construct potato grader in uganda
In April 2023, four students of Flemish technical school VTI Torhout travelled to Uganda, to design and build a potato sorting machine in Kampala. Afterwards, they drove to the north of the country to install the newly built machine at our partner ZODFA, a potato cooperative. Thanks to this exchange, producers can now sort 1 ton of potatoes in 35 minutes, whereas before this could take up to 10 hours by hand.
learning and working hard in kampala
For a week, the students from VTI-Torhout did an internship at Tonnet, a machine building company in Kampala that’s a member of one of our partners, the entrepreneurs’ association USSIA.
Purpose of the trip was to exchange ideas and knowledge with Tonnet in order to gain new insights and learn from each other. This was part of a project (with the support of G-STIC) to improve climate resilience in the potato value chain in Zombo (northern Uganda).
Wouter De Clerck, teacher at VTI Torhout supervised the students in Uganda: “I saw them use a grinding wheel all the time, which is very different from the way we usually work in Flanders. They came to see how you can really use it for everything and got very creative. Next to that, it was great to see the students integrate and communicate with everyone in the workshop as best they can.”
Tonny Lubowa, supervisor of Tonnet, who supported the students in the workshop was also enthusiastic about the collab:
“I think the students learned they definitely don’t need modern equipment to build machines. I could see they’re more used to working with contemporary tools, whereas at Tonnet we mainly work with more simple and old material. Moreover, I learned from them about some devices I had never heard of. I am very happy with this collaboration between Tonnet, Trias and VTI and I hope we can continue to explore business opportunities together in the future.”
installing the machine at zodfa
In the second week of the exchange the students travelled to the north of the country to go to Zombo. And together with potato cooperative ZODFA they installed the potato sorting machine over there.
According to Dennis Utincwinyu, business manager of ZODFA, and Sanctus Openja Pitic, coordinator of ZODFA, the potato grader is an enormous asset to their organisation. “It really came at the right time. Because many of our members are now starting to increase their production. Thanks to the machine, labour costs for sorting potatoes will reduce. If we see it continues to work well, we will install more machines in other locations.”
Why are sorted potatoes so important? In order to get access to specific markets for seed and ware potatoes. What’s more: the combination of increased production & access to new markets will inevitably lead to higher incomes for many Ugandan potato farmers.
from 10 hours of sorting to 35 minutes
The result of the exchange is impressive. From now on, ZODFA has a brand new potato sorting machine. What’s more is that producers can now sort 1 ton of potatoes in 35 minutes, whereas before it could take up to 10 hours by hand. Thanks to the new machine, farmers can spend much more time on production activities. And that’s good for their business, their income and their quality of life.
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