Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Workshop on rolling out the first prototype for testing. 27 August 2014

So today was the initial role out of my first prototype. A very exciting day to say the least because this would mean that the farmers can literally see how the pump would work. So for my first prototype my initial idea was to design a manual pump to just show them the way in which the system would work. So mainly the pump configuration. The pump configuration that I went with was a low cost Diaphragm pump made out of plumbing supplies and DIY one way valves. The one way valves are crucial in the design as it forms part of the basis on which the pump works. I made the one way valves also known as non return valves out of electrical conduit some marbles and o-rings. I rather made it myself because the non return valves at the shops are very expensive almost R200 a pop. I figured that I could make it from everyday materials for less, and it was a lot less, it was R5 a valve not to bad if I say so myself.

These low cost valves would work perfectly for the farmers because say for instance the valves break (or something) the parts will be readily available at a local hardware shop and the farmers could then fix them easily. It also means they don't have to invest in the high priced valves where the low cost valves work just as great for less than 10 percent of the high priced valves.

The whole of the pump I valued at R55 for manufacturing this is by using standard parts which could be purchased at local hardware and plumbing warehouses. This low cost price makes it attractive for the purpose of the pump being used by farmers in Soweto (with little income). This pump is also efficient I did some test and it pumps about 18 litres per minute. Which is a reasonable amount as vegetable gardens according to some sites I looked at only need about 25 mm of water, and for some vegetable more like pumpkin and carrots. The Vegetable patches takes up about 780 cubic metres of land which by my calculation needs about roughly 20 litres of water, now this may differ as in summer time the vegetable would have to be watered twice a day for better growing and security. So in terms of the pump being efficient I think that it definitely ticks the box.

The pump was tested by using the municipal outlet it was attached on the one end of the pump acting as the submersible end. The farmer then manually pumped the handle up and down and water came rushing out of the outlet. This was a relieve as it was the first time I tested it as well I knew that it would work in theory but it definitely came as a surprise seeing that the pump worked. The farmers were also delighted I could see that by their smiles.

I also showed the farmers some of the further concepts I've done where I designed the pump to work with a windmill configuration they where delighted by the idea. The manual pump is good and all and for the experiment worked perfectly, but I think that if the water can be pumped automatically without them having to interact with the pump would leave them with more time to tend to their vegetables patches and work related. The farmers did inform me that theft is high in the area, one of the farmer told me that only the other day there was a break in where they stole tablets etc. from the school. Bearing that in mind I designed the windmill to be able to detach from the pump and fold up (almost like an umbrella) to be carried easily and stored without taking up a lot of space.

Next meeting at Lakeview primary will be at the 17 of Spetember to get feedback on our first concepts, watch this space!!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Workshop on first Prototype. 20 August 2014

So today was the first initial sit down with the farmers to get a rough idea of what it is they would want the pump to do. The main concern is that they use municipal water for their crops that results in a higher water bill for the school. Which means the best way of approaching the problem is to utilize the borehole for water.
I did manage to show some concepts to the farmers of what it is I want to design to pump the water out of the borehole. The reaction was good and was a good motivation for them to see that there is progress happening.

The borehole is quite a distance from the patches of land they farm on. But by laying some pipes this will help the transportation of the water from the borehole to the jojo tank and from there to the farming patches. The initial idea of logistics will be that the pump will be situated next to the borehole where the pumping of water will happen. The water will then be transferred to a jojo tank were the water will be stored. Water will then rush into the pipe which is laid from the tank to the farm patches. The outlet will be situated in the middle of the farmland for efficiency.

I also saw some interesting problem solving from the farmers which I though was pretty awesome. Very much a ''boer maak n plan'' approach to some of the problems. So the farmers merely have a hosepipe with one attachment no sprinkler or anything. But one of the farmers devised a plan how to water parts of the patches without literally standing there and watering the patches of vegetables. He used a brick as a mount for the hosepipe to be wedged into and then the hosepipe doubles up as a sprinkler, I thought that this was clever and here is a picture of it.

Next week will be the role out of the first concept for testing and hopefully will bring about some insight on what further needs to be considered for the best possible design solution. 

Well this is my first time blogging, Lets go!! 13 August 2014

For my final project of my studies I decided to design a pump for Urban farmers in Soweto. Lake view primary school is ground zero for my project what a serene place right next to the Klipriver beautiful part of Soweto. Some background on the school is that the school only operates by means of donations. Most of the children at the school does not come from much which means that their families does not necessarily have the means to send their children to school but in this school they don't have to pay school fees  , what an awesome initiative. I found the school to be a very good environment for learning. The class rooms where kitted out which I think in my opinion is a good platform for the children to learn in.

Back to my project the urban farmers (or as they call themselves gardeners) do farm on the school grounds. They are currently growing spinach which they say is a good vegetable to grow in the winter. The farmers emphasized that they have found it difficult to farm in the winter and that their seedlings where the first to die in the cold weather. The vegetables that they produce does not get sold but rather given to the children and the farmers also take some vegetables for their families.

In terms of water the farmers use the municipal water at the school this tends to be a problem as the school now have to pay a hefty water bill each month. On the flip side the school has a borehole but the borehole has not been used for 2 years. This a great opportunity the the farmers can benefit from. Rather by using the borehole as water source it will result in a lowered water bill for the school and will leave them with a bit more money for other needs. The borehole pump is also shot which means that the water can not be pumped at all. This is where the design intervention can come into place. So the idea is to design a pump that will help the farmers to collect ''free'' water from the underground water source.

Today was also the day we chose to remove the old centrifugal water pump out of the borehole. What a mission. So the whole team pitched in to help my lecturer me and all the Development students but this wasn't even enough to get it out. We got the water pump out most of the way but the last 10 metres was merely impossible to get out. We struggled for about an hour and then we called it quits. I was trying to figure out a plan and then it hit me; when we drove into the school ground I saw a TLB huge Caterpillar. So i thought to myself this would work perfectly. One of the development students and I went to go speak to the guys standing at the TLB initially thinking that these guys are the operators of the machine. So we greeted them 'Sabona" told them we are struggling and would they help. Whilst talking to them I offered them cigarettes, thinking by myself this would be a nice gesture from me. The development student and one of the operators spoke and after that he told me that they need compensation. Luckily I had a R100 with me, so I asked them if they could help and they said yes.

To my surprise they did help an I gave them 50 bucks each. When the TLB got to the borehole we wove the cable pipe and rope in between the teeth of the bucket. He started lifting the bucket and there was movement I was happy. So we went on like this for a couple of lengths but there was a part where I could seriously see there was stress on the pipe. Eventually just when we though we were winning the pipe and cable broke off of the pump great. The rope was still attached but barely the rope was so thin and i know from previous experiences that a water pump packs some weight. But I was hoping the rope will hold and then all of a sudden snap the rope broke and the pump was gone.

In short the aim of my study is to design an off-grid pump for urban farmers in Soweto. It is also to provide the urban farmers with the knowledge to maintain the off-grid pump themselves with locally manufactured parts. The study is also aimed to educate urban farmers on water-saving irrigation techniques for farming.  

Next week a workshop and development of concepts will be shown to the farmers