My home city, Durban in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa (along with the majority of cities on the African continent) has a large informal market sector. Warwick Junction, a trading and transportation hub in central Durban, and the largest of its kind in South Africa, sees up to 460 000 people daily who come to the area for its transport interchange and market shopping.
Fresh produce markets have traditionally been the buying and selling hub of a large section of the population, however, in recent years there’s been a shift away from chain store shopping across the LSM spectrum and a move towards more organic market shopping, including dried fruit, mushrooms, nuts etc. If well-managed, this urban demand will be an economic catalyst for small-scale farmers (approximately half of whom are women) in rural areas.
The challenge faced by these farmers is that of post-harvest loss largely due to inconsistent preservation (drying) methods ie uncertain/non-existent power supply, reliance on seasonal and weather-dependent sun drying and inaccessibility to good technology at grass-roots level.
The Eco-Drier provides an innovative and practical drying solution. It is a converted 6m or 12m container modified to dry a wide range of products including fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, fish, timber and other. The major advantage of this dryer is that it runs completely off-grid. It is fueled by a custom-developed, highly-efficient biomass x-draft gasifier, which converts biomass to heat energy. The Eco-Drier can be fueled by a variety of biomass residue ie corn cobs, forestry residue, bagasse, stalks, pelletised sawdust and various other agricultural waste. Continuous feed allows the gasifier to run indefinitely. Combustion of biomass, taken by itself, is carbon neutral as the carbon released was first absorbed from the atmosphere by the biomass as it grew
the carbon cycle is therefore closed
biomass gasification is in fact carbon negative.
I believe the Eco-Drier will assist in addressing the issue of post-harvest loss by providing a means of food preservation by drying so assure a steady supply of good produce from rural areas to urban markets. In so doing, it will assist in providing equitable and affordable access to healthy, low carbon food in cities, create more efficient supply chains, reduce food loss and waste and ultimately assist in reducing hunger, malnutrition and food related illnesses in urban areas.