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The banana producing countries of the CARICOM region have been particularly challenged. The loss of preferential agreements in many major markets, exacerbated by the proliferation of pests and viruses that attack the banana plant, have led to significant losses in revenue over the past few years. With banana production being the key export in many of these countries, this has meant significant decreases in foreign exchange earnings and in general a blow to their national economies. Recognizing the significant investment in banana production infrastructure in these countries, efforts have been made to develop alternative markets based on the banana plant. It has been found that the fibre produced from the banana stalks has desirable material properties and can be used in paper production, craft creation and as an input for other bio-composite materials. Recent initiatives by some regional governments have begun to foster new markets for these fibres in the United States and Europe. Flowever, exploitation of these markets would require significant regional capacity development, primarily in the form of increased fibre production levels. One solution is to design and construct a machine that meets the needs of the stakeholders of the region and the international market. This paper would discuss the design, fabrication and testing of a prototype banana fibre machine. The design process is unique as it uses both the standard engineering design process and an energy/impact loading analysis for the machine's critical components, permitting overall improvement in energy consumption. Testing was performed on the machine and it has been shown to produce fibres from the banana stalk more effectively, with comparable quality and at a higher production capacity per unit of energy utilized, as compared to existing designs used in other regions. This machine addresses some of the current challenges and in so doing, provides a critical component to the proposed alternative regional banana value chain.


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