Coconut Desiccation

Hi Pete,

I enjoyed your Appropriate Technology for the Developing World class (the mud rocket stove) several years ago and wanted to reach out to you about a social enterprise business my friend has started on the island of Samar in the Philippines. He is looking for student involvement and a intern this summer. I thought this might be a nice class project or senior project for an interested student.
My friend Asa Feinstein has been working on the development of small scale desiccated coconut facilities throughout the rural and most impoverished regions of the Philippines for several years. A lot of desiccated coconut and virgin coconut oil comes from the Philippines, but much of this comes from more industrialized regions (ie Metro Manila) rather than rural areas where the most impoverished people live, and also the most coconuts are grown. Coconut farmers in rural regions are stuck in a cycle of debt by producing a low quality coconut product called copra. Asa, and his social enterprise, CocoAsenso are working hard to break this cycle of poverty by allowing these people access to more lucrative markets, using the same product they’re already farming. Asa has just completed the development of the first desiccated coconut facility and is looking for ways to optimize their energy needs through use of biomass fuel sources.
Please see the attached Request for Sustainable Energy Solutions. We look forward to potentially working with you and Cal Poly students. Feel free to pass along to any other colleagues or students who may be interested. Please contact Asa (cc’d) if you have any questions.
I hope all is well at Cal Poly!
Sean Thomson

Hi Pete,

That’s great news that you’re interested and that the timing works out so well! This would definitely be a big help to our organization.

We are very willing to maintain close communication with students throughout the project–this will help both them and us get as much as possible out of the collaboration. We will actually have a mechanical engineer working with us in the Philippines for the entire month of May, which will allow us to provide extra support to the students (e.g., running experiments with local biomass).

I’ve attached a biomass selection decision tree to this email, which may provide more clarity to parts of the problem statement. Do you have any recommendations of what else we can do to improve the problem statement?

All the best,Asa

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Tel: [[@tel:+63%20929%20953%209536|+63 929 953 9536]]
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Great to hear Asa’s project might work out for your class! I’m also available to help with more technical questions you or your students may have.
Cheers, Sean

Hi Dr. Schwartz,

Hope you are doing well. I imagine you’ve been quite busy preparing for the spring quarter. Wondering if you are still interested in putting some students on our project. If so, just let me know if there’s anything I could do at this point to help.
Also, we will soon be hiring a stipend mechanical engineering intern who will lead the design, construction and installation of an integrated biomass energy system and coconut meat dryer for our processing facilities (closely related to the student design project). I have attached a detailed job description to this email. Please feel free to share this opportunity with your students and anyone else in your network.
All the best,

April 4, 2018

Thanks Pete!

Just one little request: Can you please link to the following address?: Here students can easily find a detailed description of the opportunity (under the “Engineering Volunteer” posting). They can also find details on the Philippine-based summer internship that we are currently recruiting for.


Thanks for putting the project up for your class! I hope some students find it meaningful.

I would add that it’s the first RURAL SOCIAL ENTERPRISE desiccated coconut facility. I’m sure Asa has some comments too.