A doctoral student at the University of Georgia is developing an automated microwave system to non-invasively evaluate peanut moisture content.
Some might see his work as a minor change in a generations-old process.
The ground truth is that when Micah Lewis successful – and those familiar with his work expect nothing less – the invention will save time, labor and product while improving peanut flavor.
"Micha's work has the potential to be the first major innovation and change in the grading system," says Stanley Fletcher, research coordinator for the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness.
That's why Lewis was honored with the 10th Annual Dr. Georgia Washington Carver Award during the opening session of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Peanut Research and Education Society in San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday.
"It was the original intent of the Dr. Carver Award to spur interest and to make sure the bright young minds remained interested in peanut research. In keeping with Dr. Carver's selfless legacy of community and charity, the award winner must show a commitment to peanut research and they must have a big heart as well as a strong mind," said National Peanut Board member Bob White, who presented the award.
"With his research and strong commitment to his family, church and volunteer activities," White said, "I believe Micah exemplifies strong academic excellence and is a model for community service."
The only one surprised was Lewis.
"It just took me by storm," Lewis said, recalling the email that popped into his inbox on July 1.
"You always believe in your own research, but you don't see if being award winning," Lewis said. "I was surprised and humbled."
Lewis plans to graduate from UGA's agricultural engineering doctoral program in December. His hope is to continue the peanut drying research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit in Athens, Ga.