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Saving grace: Coffee processing equipment that can help save East Africa’s water resources

From the March 2011 issue.

How Penagos technology is revolutionising Africa’s coffee farms by improving the quality of coffee, and all the while saving one of the continent’s most threatened resources: water.

Eight years after Ulf Kusserow started promoting the Penagos pulper to East Africa out of his base in Tanzania, he can hardly name a coffee-growing country in the region without the pulper.

“Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya,” Kusserow ticks off the list. “Pretty much any country in East Africa has Penagos.”

He guesses there are probably 500 washing stations now in the region. While Kusserow should probably take some credit for the rapid growth in popularity of the machine, he acknowledges that there is a single technological trait that makes the pulper so attractive in the region: in a place where access to water is limited and clean water even more so, Penagos equipment pulps coffee with very little water.

“Water is obviously very precious here, and very scarce,” he says. “The water we have in eastern Africa is not really enough. We hardly have enough to grow with, so when we can cut down on the water used in processing it gives us more to grow the plant. Also, you are looking at some pretty high density areas, where water is often contaminated by people using the streams [for washing]. By limiting the amount of water we need, we can guarantee a hygienic process.”

The machine’s point of difference is that it works as a conical vertical pulper. In the complete processor unit, the pulper works through a conical screen to remove the skin. This dry technique has the double benefit of also limiting screening time, as the beans don’t need to be dried off.

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