International Development Design Summit: Jock Brandis

[Today is catch-up day. I have a huge chunk of backlogged posts that I’m going to try to get out.]

This past summer, the first International Development Design Summit (IDDS) was held at MIT and organized by Caltech, MIT and Olin College. The summit brought together 50 students, faculty and community partners from 16 countries to build technologies that can improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Jock Brandis, one of the founders of the Full Belly Project (and inventor of the Universal Nut Sheller) spoke to the group on July 18th. Prior to his involvement with Fully Belly, Brandis worked for over 2 decades in the film industry, principally as a gaffer. In 2001, he visited Mali with a friend in the Peace Corps to help repair a small village’s water treatment system. There he saw women working for hours to shell peanuts by hand. Some of the women told him that he could really help their village if he could find them an affordable peanut sheller.

Peanut Sheller in La Union, Philippines
Peanut Sheller in La Union, Philippines

In a nutshell (pun intended) that’s how it all started: with a trip and a promise. When he came back to the States, he soon discovered that small scale cheap peanut shellers did not exist. He couldn’t go back to Mali empty-handed so with the help of several cool friends with cooler skills (a master at fiberglass, an understanding pal with a machine shop, etc.), he went on to invent one.

The resulting $50 device, made of two pieces of concrete and a few simple metal parts, can shell 40-50 kg of peanuts per hour. By contrast, a woman or child can shell on average 1.5 kg of peanuts per hour. A set of fiberglass molds to reproduce the machine costs between $270-500. If good quality sand is used, a sheller can last 25-30 years with little maintenance.

Diagram of the shelling machine
Diagram of the shelling machine [larger image]

The name change from Peanut Sheller to Universal Nut Sheller came with the discovery that the machine could deal with other lucrative crops such as jatropha, coffee and shea in addition to peanuts.

A very brief synopsis of the process that he went through:

  1. Initial prototyping, including making the fiberglass/epoxy molds
  2. Testing demo and getting feedback from the endusers/experts (the women)
  3. Implementing design changes/rebuilding with the involvement of key connectors
  4. Further testing
  5. Repeating steps 2-4 as needed

Now Brandis is very interested in design standards that can be used by appropriate technology inventors to create other machines for agricultural (or other) use. The idea is to have a single chassis where interchangeable parts can be built onto it. In the video below, he talks about the idea and shows off the Pedal Powered Sheller at the Popular Mechanics office in NYC.

Duration: 3min 26sec


Chassis at IDDS

Related Links:
Instructables: How to make a universal nut sheller

Full Series of Posts:
International Development Design Summit: Jock Brandis
IDDS Part II: Brandon Pitcher on Tech at Gaviotas
IDDS 2007 Part III: A List of Projects
International Development Design Summit in the News