Internet of Things (IoT)

Food Desiccator

28 December 2019

A delicacy called “Biltong” which makes use of different spices to “Jerky”

This is one of the best ways that one can start to make a difference to the planet, almost immediately!!! This is about focussing on living more sustainably. We have to eat, but we often buy much more than we can consume and throw away what begins to turn in our refrigerators. This is nothing short of wasteful, we are all guilty of this. More importantly these desiccated food sources are actually all very delicious, think of: dried fruit, beef jerky, beef biltong and dried tomato on pizza. My favourites are: biltong and dried banana…

Main Part

The “heart” of the desiccator is the fan and associated PTC, “gentle”, self-regulating heater:

The side view which is the preferred position for resting on an old, upside down, plate saucer (prefably something ceramic) is shown below:

The top view (showing fan on bottom of unit) is shown below, this fan must face a 10cm diameter “air-port”:

Parts list

The items to get from your local hardware wholesaler, are as follows:

1) From Bunnings (AUS), Builder’s Warehouse (RSA), Home depot (USA), etc. Get a good grade plastic container (relatively thick side-wall) that has a clip locking lid. This is important as the fan/heater creates a positive pressure and needs to be sealed by these side clips. The dimensions are indicative and not crucial if you plastic container (box) is not exactly the same in size. Height – 0.5 m, Width – 0.5 m, Length – 1.02)

2) Get a “chocolate block electrical connector”, 230-240V, 10 Amp connector from the electrical aisle. These look like this:

“Chocolate block, electrical connector’

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3) My “secret sauce” controller, ESP32 Controller , (optional) if you want Bluetooth control from your mobile phone and monitoring of the internal desiccator temperature and humidity. Send me an email request  for such a unit from the contact page on www.ianboake.com. This is not essential and only a ‘nice to have’. It will set you back about $USD 55 excluding shipping.

4) An old computer cord, preferably where somebody has stripped the insulation off the computer socket end, or ask the people at the Hardware store to make it look as in the picture below:

Note different countries have different plugs and colour codes for live/active, neutral and the ground or earth conductor

5) Shade cloth about 1 meter square will do:

6) A glue-gun to glue the shade cloth over the “air ports”

7) Dowel rods cut to 550mm lengths by the hardware store, but at least 50mm longer than the width of the plastic box. eBay offers sets of 21mm diameter, dowel rods.

8) Four self-tapping screws to attach the fan/heater over one of the ports. 14g or 1.6mm will do.

Conversion between different self-taper screws in different countries

9) A 1mm drill to drill the “air ports” and pilot holes for the self-taper screws.

10) A pack of hangers, actually paper-clips where you twist the ends to make a accentuated s-shape

Instructions

1) Drill about 50 holes from the inside out in about a 10 cm diameter grouping. Do this in four places with one such an “air port” in the lid of the plastic box
2) Ensure that one “air-port” is covered by the fan of the heater/fan. The best way to do this is to take a piece of paper and mark the flange holes thereon using a pen. Place the unit onto and old plate and using a screwdriver mark the top left hole of the flange against the box.
3) Use the template in 2), mark the pilot holes for the heater/fan.
4) Make an “air-port” around these four holes but mark the key four anchoring holes with a marker
5) Cut the shade cloth large enough to cover the “air-ports”.
6) Using the glue-gun cover the “air-ports” with shade cloth by gluing the shade cloth to cover the 50 holes produced in 1)
7) Attach the heater/fan using the self-taper screws

8) Make a 22mm hole to pass the red/black and green cables from the heater unit to outside the box

9) Seal up the hole with the glue-gun

10) Connect red to red or brown, yellow to black or blue and green/yellow to green/yellow earth using the “chocolate connector block”

11) Have an electrically qualified person check the connector and then wrap it in electrical insulation tape

12) Measure from the top of the plastic box a line about 10cm from the rim on both sides, mark it with a line. At 50cm spacings from the side one side of the plastic box, mark an X. Drill 22mm holes on these Xs for both sides of the plastic box.

13) Push the dowels into these holes until the protrusion are the same on both sides then glue the insides of the penetrations with the glue gun, this holds them in place.

14) The dowels will allow you to attach meat and fruit etc. to the dowels hanging in the box

15) Avoid hanging anything over the heater/fan, this will foul it over time making it less effective.

16) Google “Crown Biltong spice” and buy a packet of this spice, follow the instructions thereon for venison, lamb and beef. Hang the meat on the dowels using paperclips.

17) For fruit make a 20% mixture of lemon juice and water and dip these fruit slices there in before hanging up with paperclips.

18) Hang meat or fruit and check daily by hand squeezing the food until it feels hard with a semi-soft centre or when the “secret sauce” controllers reports 40% humidity in the box, it will be sealed.

19) After 3-5 days depending on local climate, enjoy your sustainable, desiccated food!!

If you can find a basket that fits into the box it is much easier than dowels

A version with two fans and heaters can be seen in the following link:

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