ASME, the world’s largest professional organization for mechanical engineers, has awarded a Peruvian coffee startup a share of $500,000 in prize money plus technical assistance for a new roasting machine that harnesses the power of the sun.
The hybrid solar roasting machine captures and stores energy through solar panels while also roasting directly through a series of angled mirrors that generate heat directly from sunlight up to 200℃ (392℉) within a hand-rotated steel drum above a hand-powered cooling tray.
Developed by young Peruvian inventor Félix Escalante, the creator of the Lima-based coffee brand and subscription service Compadre, the roaster is designed for installation on coffee farms. As part of ASME’s 2018 Innovation Showcase (IShow) — created to highlight emerging hardware designs that address social issues — the roaster is intended to give producers and millers an affordable means to capture more of the value chain by producing coffee entirely from seed to roasted form.
“Peru’s rural coffee farmers make on average $2.50 [per kilo] for raw coffee beans, compared to roasters further down the supply chain, who command as much as $30 [per kilo] for roasted coffee beans,” ASME said in its announcement of the three winning design projects. “Solar Hybrid Coffee Roaster provides small-scale rural farmers with the technology to roast their own coffee beans with sunlight and helps boost the value of their end product. Solar roasting provides higher incomes by minimizing costs of production, promotes organic practices, decreases CO2 output, and allows small-scale farmers to continue to work and live in remote areas.”
The $500,000 in prize money will be split among nine total international winners of the award, and will go toward further product development for each of the projects, which, according to the competition rules, must be designed to address transformational economic, environmental and social impact.
Compadre is already selling solar-roasted coffee direct to consumers and through wholesale office accounts.