Drying beads help Bangladesh farmers access better seed

In humid Bangladesh, finding reliable vegetable seed can be a challenge — a situation that can ruin a crop before a farmer’s hard work even begins. But Bangladesh seed companies are rapidly adopting a new technology that can improve seed germination and plant vigor, through improved seed processing and storage. Called “drying beads,” this reusable tool can help seed companies provide farmers with higher quality seed, improving the local seed industry and helping farmers maximize the potential of their own hard work.

Many of the country’s leading vegetable seed companies have adopted drying beads through a multi-part training led by Rhino Research and supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, based at the University of California, Davis. Participating organizations include Lal Teer Seed Limited, Metal Seed, Getco, A. R. Malik & Co., Ispahani Agro Limited, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation and others.

“We concluded that these beads are drying our seeds faster and deeper, obtaining a better quality that results in a longer storage potential, and all this with lesser costs,” said Tabith M. Awal of Lal Teer Seed Limited in Bangladesh. “Therefore Lal Teer made the executive decision to move ahead with implementing these beads for all our seeds and crops as soon as possible.”

This year, more than 200 tons of vegetable seed have been dried and stored with drying beads — helping an estimated 100,000 farmers in Bangladesh access quality seed.

The in-depth training, offered for a week at a time and repeated Continue reading Drying beads help Bangladesh farmers access better seed

MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Expanding irrigation and climate-smart farming to Guatemala

An international team led by UC Davis is working to connect 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies, to increase food security and reduce poverty.

Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers’ incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers’ access to needed microcredit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers’ lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “We’re taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. It represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission in Guatemala.

Partnering with UC Davis is an international team with representatives from Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras; Kansas State University; and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Continue reading MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

CoolBots making news in Cambodia

While the Horticulture Innovation Lab team was recently in Cambodia for its 2016 annual meeting, reporter Jonathon Cox of the Khmer Times in Phnom Penh reached out to learn more about how farmers in Cambodia are using the CoolBot. He had heard about the device at the recent Cambodia Science & Engineering Festival.

The article Cox wrote, “Helping Farmers Keep Their Cool” was published in the newspaper this week.

For it, he interviewed Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis, about the program’s use of the CoolBot in Cambodia.

“I think that cooling is essential to develop a vibrant produce industry in Cambodia based on local products,” Mitcham said. Current estimates suggest Continue reading CoolBots making news in Cambodia

How one farmer’s invention is reducing food waste around the world

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

In many developing countries, more than half of all fruits and vegetables are never eaten, but are instead lost to damage or spoilage after harvest. These post-harvest losses can mean that farmers need to sell their fresh produce immediately at whatever price they can get, before they lose the crops that represent investments of labor, water, and agricultural inputs. Improving how fruits and vegetables are handled after harvest can significantly prolong freshness — and cooling is key.

“The three most important aspects of postharvest handling are: temperature, temperature, temperature,” said Michael Reid, a postharvest specialist who works with the Horticulture Innovation Lab at the University of California, Davis. “In the developing world in particular, affordable cooling technology is mostly absent.”

Cooling can be an expensive challenge — even for American farmers.

As a farmer in upstate New York, Ron Khosla knew this problem too well. His vegetable crop was spoiling too quickly, but he could not afford to buy a walk-in cooler for his small farm. So he invented a solution: a small electrical device he called a CoolBot that tricks an air conditioner into getting colder without freezing over, turning a well-insulated room into a cold room for less than it cost to buy a refrigeration unit. Continue reading How one farmer’s invention is reducing food waste around the world

Agricultural innovations at Kasetsart University, in SciDev.Net video

A video from SciDev.Net explores agriculture technologies at Kasetsart University in Thailand, aimed at the needs of smallholder farmers of horticultural crops.

The audio slideshow, “Simple agricultural innovation to empower farmers,” takes a closer look at several low-cost farming tools, including:

  • a cold room with a CoolBot for cooling fruits and vegetables after harvest
  • two solar dryers, including the UC Davis chimney dryer for drying produce
  • a solar-powered pump with drip irrigation system

Reporter Giovanni Ortolani interviewed Poonpipope Kasemsap, professor at Kasetart University, whose comments provide narration for most of the video.

“A lot of things can be done with a small investment, with innovations, in order to help the farmers so that they can live better lives,” Kasemsap says in the video. Continue reading Agricultural innovations at Kasetsart University, in SciDev.Net video