6 lessons from postharvest loss assessments in Rwanda

Editor’s note: This blog post by Gurbinder Singh Gill was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting.

Gill manages the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s project focused on reducing postharvest losses in Rwanda as the managing associate at Agribusiness Associates, Inc.

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Gurbinder Gill of Agribusiness Associates, leader of a Horticulture Innovation Lab project

Postharvest losses in African agriculture are often estimated at about 30-40 percent. The Horticulture Innovation Lab’s latest project in Rwanda set out to reduce postharvest losses in horticulture last year. Our first step was to conduct in-depth field work to understand the main causes and stages at which postharvest losses occurred in our four focus crops — tomatoes, green chilies, green bananas and orange fleshed sweet potatoes. We set out to understand the issues from three perspectives: Continue reading 6 lessons from postharvest loss assessments in Rwanda

Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter

Leaning into her tuktuk in Siem Reap, Eang Chakriya opens a cooler and takes out fresh wax gourds and other vegetables that have been carefully packed and chilled, showing them to a group of neighbors. Emblazoned on the tuktuk (a kind of motorized rickshaw) are images of farmers and the marketing motto, “Grown Right, Handled Right, Community Right.”

Chakriya sells nutritious vegetables directly to consumers in Cambodia as part of a farmers’ cooperative working with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by the University of California, Davis.

The project’s research team is examining incentives that help farmers improve their agriculture practices. The researchers’ hunch is that farmers will adopt conservation agriculture practices (or “Grown Right” practices) if the team also helps them to adopt two other types of profitable practices that will increase their success: improved postharvest handling techniques and novel marketing practices.

So far, the idea seems to be working.

As a partner in this Feed the Future Innovation Lab, researchers from Continue reading Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach

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

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

Event: First All-Africa Postharvest Congress

“Reducing food losses and waste: Sustainable solutions for Africa” is the theme of the first All Africa Post Harvest Congress and Exhibition. The conference will be March 28-31 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The event will address aspects of postharvest management related to perishable crops, perishable animal products, non-perishable food commodities, capacity development, and related social issues that affect postharvest management.

Registration to attend the conference is $400, or $350 at early-bird rates before Feb. 28. A student rate is also available ($150 or $100 early). An optional excursion trip scheduled for March 28 is available for an additional $50.

Event logo and name with "Reducing food losses and waste" Sustainable solutions for Africa"
The 1st All Africa Post Harvest Congress will be March 28-31 in Nairobi.

The event is supported by a consortium of universities, research and development organizations — including the Horticulture Innovation Lab as one of its sponsors. In particular, the congress was organized by the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, in conjunction with the World Food Preservation Center, hosted by the University of Nairobi, with strategic partnership from the Rockefeller Foundation. Continue reading Event: First All-Africa Postharvest Congress