IBEKA Easy Distillation for Indonesian Farmers
  • Client: IBEKA
  • When: 2010
  • Team: 2 Mechanical Design Engineers and 2 Business Analysts
  • My Role: Mechanical Design Engineer
Overview

From March 2010 to June 2010 as part of Stanford d.school‘s prestigious Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class, I worked with a diverse team of four, including Engineers and MBAs, to help rural Indonesian farmers earn fast cash from the weeds in their farms and simultaneously minimize deforestation.

With The Easy Steam Machine, rural Indonesian farmers can increase their income. The Machine provides them an efficient way to produce steam for their home essential oil distillation units. By reducing the time to produce steam from hours to just a few minutes, The Machine enables farmers to process at least 25% more biomass per day! Time is saved by (1) increasing surface area, (2) heat insulation, and (3) including a continuous water flow through system. As a $230 plug-and-play replacement for the traditional batch drum, the Easy Steam Machine ensures durable, hassle-free steam distillation.

The Easy Steam Machine speeds up the weak link in an existing system by two orders of magnitude. Using our boiler technology, we were able to reduce distillation time from 3 hours to 3 minutes!

Indonesian Traditional Batch Drum Distiller

Traditional Batch Drum Distiller

The Easy Steam Machine Boiler System for Distillation Units

The Easy Steam Machine

The Opportunity

We worked with IBEKA, our NGO partner in Indonesia, to identify the core need of these farmers. For one week, two of my teammates visited, observed, and interviewed these farmers in their fields. We noticed that these farmers were battling with lemongrass as a weed in their farms, and as a result, expanding into fresh rainforests as they struggled to keep their farms going so they could support their families.

Interestingly, most farmers had systems in place to convert their lemongrass into crude lemongrass oil, which they could easily sell for fast cash. However, these distillation systems were left unused, because it took them three hours of valuable time to boil the water necessary to begin the distillation process.

Need Statement

Subsistence farmers in Indonesia need a way to process all of their lemongrass and patchouli into higher value essential oil. Currently, farmers leave up to twenty-five and seventy-five percent of their plant material unprocessed because their essential oil distillation device is too cumbersome and time-intensive. Given the short harvest period and the low throughput of their device, farmers must leave potential income in the field, unprocessed.

The Solution

In order to increase the quantity of oil output, we focused on increasing both the throughput and the yield, i.e. doing a faster job and doing a better job. The Easy Steam Machine is a replacement, plug-and-play device that fits directly into the traditional system — which makes it less expensive than purchasing an entirely new device. It also lowers the barriers to adoption because farmers will feel familiar with the design and user interface.

Diagram showing Inefficiencies with Traditional Distillation

Inefficiencies with Traditional Distillation

Diagram showing The Easy Steam Machine

The Easy Steam Machine

There are four problems with the existing system that lower throughput and yield: stifled fire, biomass heat loss, poor water-to-fire interface, and high water maintenance. We address each of these with our system by designing a more efficient fire, biomass insulation, higher surface area, and water flow-through.

The Easy Steam Machine speeds up the weak link in an existing system by two orders of magnitude. Using our boiler technology, we were able to reduce distillation time from 3 hours to 3 minutes!

Check out a prototype in action:

Implementation Proposal Plan

IBEKA Easy Distillation for Indonesian Farmers Implementation Proposal Plan UX Mockup

Status

We handed this project over to our partner IBEKA to execute and distribute this among their served communities.

Learn More

Read our implementation plan here.

Read our final presentation here.

Read more about the d.school class Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability here.