Affordable and Easy to Maintain Solutions for Sorghum Grain Threshing (and Other Grains)

This Innovation Exchange challenge, delivered by Innovate UK KTN through the Global Alliance Africa project, is supporting a large Agri-based Manufacturing Company with operations across Africa, who is looking for innovative solutions for grain threshing to reduce post-harvest wastage. Solutions need to be lightweight, affordable, and easy to maintain.


Challenge opens


Challenge closes



Up to £25,000 seed funding (subject to T&C) to collaborate with the challenge holder on this specific challenge.


Kenya traditionally has a structure of small farms over large areas of land where farmers grow a wide variety of food and industrial crops. Most of the farm operations are being carried out by hand. Crops are harvested manually, dried and threshed on the farm before being transported for sale. This post-harvest grain handling leads to an estimated 20-30% yield loss, affecting farmers' revenue and livelihood. 

This iX challenge is looking for novel solutions to minimise the loss of grain during the threshing process.  

Small farms often have limited ability to invest in large equipment and have limited need for major pieces of machinery. Instead, they require smaller, mobile off-grid equipment that can easily be moved between sites with small towing equipment, and which operates off local power sources.

The use of smaller, modern methods of grain threshing would offer significant benefit to the output of the farm and make the use of larger collection services over several localised farms, more cost efficient for the customer. As such, both producers and buyers could benefit financially from solutions to this challenge. 

It is envisaged that this threshing unit could be towed or moved from farm to farm, by either a small vehicle or potentially a motorbike. There may be instances where co-operatives may share one piece of machinery, but it will still need to be transported/towed to the crop for processing. It would be advantageous for the submissions to consider that these pieces of equipment would need to be simple and robust with the ability to get parts and repair in the areas they are operating. Cost of key spares should also be considered as the units may travel with a spares pack to keep them running and ensure they meet the demands so that there is no loss of harvest.

Target audiences

We anticipate solutions may come from, but are not limited to, the following sectors:

  • AgriTech
  • Design
  • Infrastructure
  • Mechanical designers
  • Engineering companies 

Information Event

There will be an an online information session and Q&A about this challenge on 24th June 2022.  For more information and booking your place please visit here:


Rewards & Benefits

Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their solution to the Challenge Holder.

The selected solution provider(s) will collaborate with the Challenge Holder and gain access to local facilities to carry out trials (piloting the solution)

The package may also include:

  • Up to GBP 25,000 seed funding to work on the solution for this specific challenge in collaboration with the Challenge Holder. Funding will be paid in instalments, subject to de minimis aid regulations, due diligence check and milestone achievements (e.g. project plan, mid-project report and final report) and sign-off by the Challenge Holder. 
  • Support from KTN (e.g. pitch training and mentoring)
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot 
  • Technical support
  • Invitation to attend or present at IUK KTN events

Functional Requirements

  • Solutions will be deployed in Kenya with the potential to scale up into Uganda and Tanzania and need to be suitable for the local environment. 
  • Solutions needs to be mobile allowing movement from one farm to the other, either via a motorbike or small vehicle
  • Solutions needs to be robust and theft proof
  • Need to be able to be repaired or serviced via local engineering/manufacturing avenues
  • 1 prototype is required for trial 
  • Solution needs to be able to thresh, clean and grade a variety of grains such as sorghum, millet, pulses
  • Desirable: Bag loader as part of the solution (bag weight: 50 kg) 

Technical Requirements

  • Average farm is 0.4 ha and current volume per ha would average 1500Kgs 
  • Solutions to offer one equipment piece serving a cluster of between 50-60 farmers
  • Expected throughput of 400kgs per hr 
  • PTO driven equipment is not desirable due to low tractor availability
  • Not sorghum alone as same farmers also thresh pulses and other cereals (millet, maize)
  • Innovation should thresh (separate grain and chaff) and clean – winnowing
  • Desirable: equipment easily adaptable for other crops. 

Operating Conditions

  • Solution will be applied in Kenya and needs to be suitable for the local environment, with average weather conditions of 25-30C, rainfall 500-1000mm/year
  • Solution will be deployed under dry conditions but must withstand the local weather conditions
  • Access to energy and power supply is limited, solar energy or other renewables might be available
  • Solution must be small to medium size for easy movement across the farms
  • Anticipated time spend on threshing: not more than 2h per farm
  • Solution will be operated 24/7
  • Solution must comply with local health and safety standards

Deployment Timescale

Launch of the Competition: 27th May 2022
Information Session:  24th June 2022
Deadline for applications:  8th July 2022
Selection and notification of finalists: 29th July 2022
Date of Pitch Day: August 2022 (date TBC)
Solutions are expected to be deployed within 6 month – 1 year (prototype)

Cost Requirement & Market Opportunity

  • Cost for the solution should fall in the range of 1000 – 2000 GBP range/per equipment 
  • Anticipating 50-100 pieces in the first instance

Out of Scope

  • Large self-drive pieces of equipment over the value of >2,000 GBP
  • Highly technical designs with electronics and precision components that can't be easily sourced

Eligibility & Assessment Criteria

Applicants must be:

  • Established businesses, start-ups, SMEs, individual entrepreneurs, or academics.
  • Collaborative solutions (Business to Business B2B and B2R&D) are valid applications. If collaborative solutions are being submitted, a single lead organisation needs to register the application. This organisation can be either an industrial or academic partner.
  • Priority is given to solution providers based in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. However, innovative solutions from other countries will be considered. 

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the subject
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project quickly/ ease of implementation
  • Suitability for the African Market

IP & Potential Commercial Route

  • Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Challenge Holder.
  • Any commercial deployment of a transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Challenge Holder.
  • Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Challenge Holder.This is expected to be after company selection. It is suggested that details of IP not be disclosed)
  • Innovate UK and IUK KTN do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial ventures through the iX programme.