Vegetable farmers can now increase their produce shelf-life from three days or one week to over one year using solar chimney dryer which can be fabricated at home or at the farm hence avoiding post-harvest losses.
It is estimated that 40-50 per cent of fruits and vegetables produced in Kenya are lost or wasted along the supply chain, according to Dr. Jane Ambuko, a post-harvest expert at the Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection at the University of Nairobi (UoN).
However, with the solar chimney dryer technology, a farmer can dry up to 200kg of vegetables at a go prolonging the shelf-life to over a year, according to Manoa, a student at Kaiboi Technical Training Institute, who developed the technology.
“This technology is simple and easy to use since one can make the dryer at home or on the farm using locally available materials such as timber, plastic mesh and polythene sheet,” said Kipkosgei.
He adds that the climate and weather have become erratic and unpredictable making the traditional drying of various farm produce under the sun harder prompting the need for improved ways of saving highly perishable farm produce.
“With this new technology, farmers will be able to maximize on the short periods that there could be solar energy to dry their produce in large quantities and within a short time hence avoiding unnecessary losses.”
What it is made of and how it works
The dryer has three main parts; a flatbed compartment that holds vegetables which are covered with a transparent polythene sheet, an air inlet and a chimney.
It is also made of a black nylon sheet, wood and green plastic mesh that helps absorb heat. The mesh is made from plastic instead of metal to prevent corrosion and ensure the food is not contaminated.
At the bottom of the dryer is an inlet that allows air into the chamber.
“To use the dryer, one first cleans produce such as cabbages, then chops them into smaller pieces and puts on the mesh. After two to four hours depending on the heat intensity, the hot air escapes through the chimney,” he said.
It can also be used to dry fruits, grains, fish, tubers, oilseeds and meat among other fresh produce.
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