VitaGoat is a food processing unit ideal for micro-businesses as it does not require electricity to create value-added products from soy. It can also be used in limited processing of cereals, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Primary foods can be processed into flours, pastes or wet slurries and used "as is" or cooked further with steam. Cooked foods can also be pressed in a manual filter press to make juices and energy-dense beverages.
Henry Davies, the South African manufacturer, says that there are currently more than 200 VitaGoat units being used to process palatable, high-quality soy food products in India. "The great benefits of soy – in both high protein nutrition and crop rotation in agriculture – is maximised through VitaGoat, as it provides value-addition to soy farmers within their communities," says Davies.
The VitaGoat unit consists of four basic components: a bicycle grinder, steam boiler, cooker and press.
- Bicycle grinder: based on a design originally created in the mid-1970s in the US, energy is produced through a pedal-powered system that uses adjustable-speed pulleys, permitting fast and easy grinding of a variety of foods. An inexpensive modified hand mill using metal-to-metal plates grinds foods 10-50 times faster than hand or stone grinding methods. Grinding output depends on the operator’s pedalling speed and the selected grinding gear ratio. The best product results are obtained when soaked soy beans are used. Ground coffee can also be produced in one pass from roasted beans.
- Steam boiler: the boiler is inexpensive to build and can be taken apart for cleaning. Wood and other hard fuels or liquid gas can be used to heat water in the inner chamber. The resulting steam is then re-heated in a tube to create a "super-heated" steam which is much hotter than regular steam.
- Cooker: made from stainless steel, this vessel can cook up to 15 litres of food per batch, under pressure – greatly reducing cooking time and saving fuel. It is equipped with temperature and pressure gauges and a safety pressure relief valve. Product is fed through an easily-removable top opening and steam enters the vessel through openings located on the bottom of the vessel. Cooked product is released through a valve-controlled bottom opening.
- Press: pressing occurs by turning a screwed rod that pushes onto a sanitary plastic disc, which in turn squeezes out liquid from the product held within a filter bag. The liquid pours out of the bottom into a pail. This all-stainless steel press is simple to operate and clean.
The VitaGoat can produce several products at the following rates:
- Soy-base: made from whole beans to prepare yoghurt/fermented “milk” products, or flavoured “milk” = 30-40 litres/hour.
- Fruits and vegetables: mash, puree and juice = 20-30 litres/hour.
- Peanut butter: other nut butter and paste = 8-12kg/hour.
- Ground coffee beans = 6-8kg/hour.
Davies’ company supplies the VitaGoat for approximately $11,700 (R89,000) including installation and training of the group that will be working with the equipment. The company expects businesses to recoup this outlay within a year, if they have at least 3-4 hours daily production.
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