Former Nust student seeks to tackle power challenges Scenes from the ZITF: Nust former student Mr Fortune Donga explains to Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga how his biomass innovation works during the ZITF

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE purpose of innovation is to solve day-to-day challenges and former National University of Science and Technology (Nust) student Mr Fortune Mswati Donga believes he is on course to addressing one of industry’s most pertinent problems — power shortage.

Mr Donga (26), from Nkayi, graduated from Nust with a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Applied Chemistry in 2019.

He has invented a biomass-powered industrial water pump and gold processing plant.

Mr Donga said his invention is aimed at solving power challenges that affect productivity especially among small-scale miners who operate in areas without electricity.

The water pump can enable communities that struggle to pump water to use cheap and environment friendly technologies to pump it.

Biomass refers to plants or animal material used as fuel to produce electricity or heat.

Mr Donga has partnered Nust to commercialise his invention and transform communities.

His biomass powered-gold processing plant and water pump constitute the flagship Nust exhibition at ZITF 61st edition.

Mr Donga said coming from a rural district he observed the challenges presented by lack of electricity to some entities in the area and utilised his academic studies to innovate.

“I come from Nkayi, and there are a lot of companies that produce timber and as a result produce a lot of biomass.

Biomass is anything that is plant-based and combustible to produce energy. Where I come from there is a lot of gold production and this is sometimes done in places that are far from civilisation where there is connectivity to electricity and other means of energy. The small-scale miners in the area struggle to process their gold as a result of lack of power yet there is an abundance of forest and dying plants,” said Mr Donga.

“I partnered with Nust to produce a prototype of how we can utilise biomass as a source of energy to address the power challenges affecting the country.”

He said his innovation can also contribute to reduced usage of water in the gold processing process.

“This innovation is perfectly in sync with the national renewable policy that calls for innovativeness in using biomass. I started this in the Covid-19 era as I had a lot of time to address the challenges affecting my community,” he said.

Nust director of communication and marketing Mr Thabani Mpofu said the biomass-powered equipment is a game changer especially looking at the country’s troubled energy sector.

“The biomass powered multi-purpose water pump I think for us for this year’s ZITF edition is ‘the’ innovation’ in the sense that this is a very important innovation for farmers, it’s a very important innovation for small-scale miners and it’s also a very important innovation for general purpose use. It’s a cheap way of pumping water, it’s also a cheap way of producing energy,” said Mr Mpofu.

Mr Thabani Mpofu

“If you look at it, biomass energy can be used to process gold. If you link the two it can give power to the other and can be able to use that machinery and cut on costs as opposed to taking their gold elsewhere for milling. We believe that this is the way to go. The other pumps use diesel, they use petrol, electricity but for this one we just use biomass which is out there.”

He said through employing biomass, the country can drive mining and agriculture through cheaper energy sources and players in the sector should be excited over the invention.

Mr Mpofu said the university is in the process of making patents for some of the innovations before commercialising them.

“As Nust we are working on industrial parks, the main idea is mass production of these products. At the moment, what we have are prototypes and we are still undergoing various tests and our experts were also looking at making improvements on them,” said Mr Mpofu.

“We have now reached a stage where we can register them as patents and after registering them as patents then we do mass production on these products, including our targeted beneficiaries.”

Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said higher learning institutions have adopted innovation as an economic driver and an enabler towards Vision 2030.

Prof Amon Murwira

“This year one of the themes of the ZITF is innovation and our institutions have come in full force to showcase innovations that are basically a show of the necessary capabilities this nation needs to read Vision 2030. We have universities, industrial training colleges and polytechnics and teachers’ colleges as well. So, what you will see when you go to Hall 3 is you will see what our universities, our colleges are doing. All the things that are there, if they are put into the production line, that’s the industrialisation process,” said Prof Murwira.

“All industries are created to meet human needs; industries are created from training in education and human needs remain constant. Education improves the way we meet those human needs. So, this is the whole story that you are going to see.”

He said part of the innovation will see Nust by November making reagents while universities have played a significant role in fighting Covid-19 through production of personal protective equipment.

Prof Murwira said the higher and tertiary education sector consists of people who are ready to innovate to move their country forward.

He said developed countries used the same strategies to get where they are. — @nqotshili.

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