UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

A new invention from UC Davis researchers won a competition as the top emerging technology to reduce food loss and waste across the African continent.

The low-cost tool, called the DryCardTM, shows farmers whether their dried food products are dry enough to store safely, reducing food losses and risks of mold and associated toxins.

The DryCard beat out more than 200 entries to win the grand prize in the “All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge.” Top technologies and innovations were invited to pitch to an audience of about 600 participants, including private investors and international organizations, at the first All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition, March 31 in Nairobi, Kenya.

group holding DryCards with prize check
From left, Bertha Mjawa and Elizabeth Mitcham wave DryCards in victory as they accept the grand prize from organizers during the All-Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovations Challenge. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Erin McGuire/UC Davis)

Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in postharvest biology for the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, represented the DryCard during the competition.

“I have never seen such strong interest in a technology like this,” Continue reading UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

Meet Archie Jarman: Q&A with Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new program officer

Editor’s note: Archie Jarman joined the Horticulture Innovation Lab team as its new program officer, just in time to participate in the program’s annual meeting in March. He brings a wealth of international experience to this position, which includes coordinating the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Regional Centers around the globe. Here is a brief interview to introduce you to Archie and his background. We hope you have a chance to meet him soon!

Question: Tell us about your background. How did you come to work for the Horticulture Innovation Lab?

portrait: Robert "Archie" Jarman
Archie Jarman, program officer for the Horticulture Innovation Lab

Archie Jarman: By winding road. I worked for the fire service, which is a great career, and made some lifelong friends, but I had the international travel itch. So I studied International Social Welfare at Columbia University and also interned at the Millennium Villages Project with a focus on whether safety net programs improve childhood nutrition domestically and abroad. After graduating, I then worked at Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., as coordinator and then as project manager with excellent teams for their USAID-funded projects. The projects are aimed at improving the abiotic stress tolerance of rice and wheat in Africa and Southeast Asia and incorporated capacity building. The position at the Horticulture Innovation Lab seemed ideal in that I have strengths that could be beneficial for the program, but it also provided a lot of challenges for me to improve my weaknesses and learn. I am thankful it worked out! Very happy to join the team.

Can you tell us more about the projects and crops you were working with at Arcadia Biosciences?

In Bangladesh we were working with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) to evaluate transgenic salt tolerant rice for research and incorporated a capacity building component, Continue reading Meet Archie Jarman: Q&A with Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new program officer

Inventing a low-cost solution to reduce moldy foods

‘DryCard’ takes the guesswork out of drying

DryCard with color strip with color scale and directions for use. Horticulture Innovation Lab product marked with USAID and UC Davis logos
The DryCard indicates whether dried foods are dry enough to store safely.

Update: Days after this article was posted, the DryCard was recognized as a top emerging technology, winning the grand prize at the All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge, March 31 in Nairobi. 

How do you see dryness? Solar drying is a simple way for smallholder farmers to preserve their harvest, but knowing when food is dry enough to store is complex. UC Davis researchers invented a low-cost, easy-to-use tool that farmers can use to measure food dryness, called the DryCardTM.

In developing countries, mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem, which can mean postharvest losses for farmers and unsafe foods for consumers. When mold grows it reduces the market value of dried foods, meaning less income for farmers. But moldy foods can also contain toxins that suppress the immune system, increase disease rates, and cause lifelong stunting in children.

Trip to market inspires a solution

Man with smartphone in crowded market, with woman selling fresh produce and bags of dried goods in Tanzania
Michael Reid takes a photo on the market visit in Tanzania with participants in a postharvest training course, which motivated the eventual design of the DryCard. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Angelos Deltsidis/UC Davis)

Improving the postharvest drying process for smallholder farmers is something UC Davis scientists Michael Reid and James Thompson think about often. As UC Cooperative Extension specialists, Reid and Thompson have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies, including a design for a more efficient solar dryer.

Last summer Reid led a Horticulture Innovation Lab workshop in Tanzania to provide training in postharvest handling of fruit and vegetable crops. The class visited the local market and tested the moisture content of some of the dried foods for sale. They found huge variation between the moisture contents of dried foods — over half were insufficiently dried and susceptible to mold.

It was then Reid realized the magnitude of the issue. Continue reading Inventing a low-cost solution to reduce moldy foods

Newsletter: Trellis RFP, Africa Postharvest Congress

If you are not receiving our newsletter via email, you can subscribe, or browse through our newsletter archives. Below is a copy of the email newsletter we sent yesterday.

We have two special opportunities to bring to your attention in this newsletter: First, we are seeking grant proposals from organizations in developing countries for a new, expanded round of Trellis Fund projects. Second, we are sponsoring the first All-Africa Postharvest Congress at the end of March in Nairobi, and you may be interested in participating in a number of ways. Keep reading for more details and updates from our team.  Continue reading Newsletter: Trellis RFP, Africa Postharvest Congress

New call for Trellis Fund grant proposals

The Horticulture Innovation Lab invites organizations in developing countries to compete for new Trellis Fund grants up to $4,000 each for 6-month projects, to extend horticultural information to local farmers and stakeholders along fruit or vegetable value chains.

Project proposals may address horticultural crop production, irrigation, plant nutrition, pest management, postharvest practices or marketing issues in relation to fruits and vegetables. Once projects are selected, the Trellis Fund will connect organizations with U.S. graduate students who have related agricultural expertise for project support.

Both new organizations and previously awarded organizations are encouraged to apply. Organizations based in these countries are eligible to apply:

  • In Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean: Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras
  • In Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and Tajikistan

Continue reading New call for Trellis Fund grant proposals