Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Logistical preparations for the achira experiment

After three days of going live on the Indiegogo fundraising site, I'm thrilled at the generous response from people.  We are almost halfway to our goal of $1500.  It's been a strong start, and I know that often there is a flush of contributions just before the final deadline.  So now the key is to keep going strong, and I hope that I can do that by offering updates on our preparations for the harvest phase of our experiment.

First off, I have finished shopping around for the laboratory that will do our nutritional analyses.  We will send our samples to the food chemistry laboratory at our university in Tunja, as they give us a good rate per sample.  Furthermore, the National University in Bogota is shut down thanks to an administrative workers' strike, so even if they'd offered us a better deal, we couldn't send them our samples, because they can't get into their lab!

Our schedule next week will look like this then:
  • Cut and weigh leaf samples on Sunday to get an idea of the relative forage productivity of our different achira varieties.
  • Harvest, clean, and weigh rhizome samples on Monday to see the different yields of each variety.  (Rhizomes are underground storage organs, like tubers; they're what you eat or process from achira).
  • Dry our leaf samples in an oven on Tuesday (the lab we're sending them to for analysis is also in the National University, and since they don't know when the university will open again, they advised us to dry down the leaves so they don't rot in the interim).
  • Process rhizomes for starch extraction on Wednesday.  This consists of grating the rhizomes with a motorized grater, rinsing the pulp through a strainer with water, and letting the starch settle to the bottom of the bucket.  This is the trickiest phase for our experiment, as we need to manage 25 separate buckets, each with a different type of achira.
  • Wash starch on Thursday.  This consists in dumping out the dirty water from the bucket with the starch in it, adding more water and stirring it up with the starch, waiting for the starch to settle out again, and repeating the process until the starch is pure white and the rinse water comes out clear (usually it requires some seven washings!).
  • Set starch out on cloth sheets to dry for the next few days, again maintaining each of the 25 samples separately. 
If you haven't check out our fundraising page yet, please do, and contribute something if you can.

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