Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Uganda and across Africa yet 40% of harvested produce (mainly fruits and vegetables) are lost before consumption, according to FAO (2013). The post-harvest losses are due to poor handling and preservation means. The main open sun drying method for preservation used by 90% of the farmers is limited to drying high sugar and acid content fruits and not recommended for drying vegetables. This method and also solar dryers in the market takes a long time, 3-8 days to dehydrate, unhygienic and highly depended on the weather which is very unpredictable in today’s climate change. The electrically powered dehydrator is another alternative however it is very expensive ($150-$300) and over 85% of Uganda’s small-scale farmers’ don’t have access to electricity. The loses not only means less food available for consumption, increasing food insecurity but also less profitability for the farmers, reducing their earnings and keeping them in the cycle of poverty. This challenge is affecting over 15 million households in Uganda, according to the Uganda Bureau of statistics (2015), Africa at large and other parts of the world like Asia and South America.
Sparky is a low tech thermo-dehydrator that reduces the current 40% post-harvest losses to less than 20%, by extending the shelf-life of produce from 2 days to 2 years. It is powered by harvest waste from the garden as biofuel (Briquettes). The Sparky Dryer is designed to have a high performing heat exchange from the burn chamber to the drying chamber through stainless steel walls.” There is a thick layer of insulation that minimizes heat loss to the environment. The heating temperature is controlled in the Sparky dryer ranging from 40 to 70 degrees Celsius through the centrifugal fan at the top of the unit, and the air flow inlets in the heat chamber regulate the heating temperature. To use the dryer, fruits, and vegetables to be dried are sliced and put in the trays in the drying chamber. When 0.2 kg of briquettes are set into the fire in the gasifier stove to heat up the lava rocks to a red-hot temperature, fruits and vegetables with less water content take typically 2 hours to dehydrate and the produce with high water content takes typically 5 hours to dehydrate. The Sparky Dryer dehydrates food 5 times faster than solar dryers and 10 times faster than the traditional open sun drying method while maintaining the nutrients in the food. With Sparky, a farmer can dry up to 50kg of produce within 5 hours with only 2kg of biofuel, whether it is raining or shining. This makes Sparky not only a reliable preservation unit, but also very convenient for use and environmentally friendly. The dried product allows farmers to avoid selling produce at extremely low prices because they can store the fruits and vegetables for a longer period of time with a lot less space. They can also ensure a steady stream of income during non-harvest months because they can be sold all year-round (it can be difficult to get fruit and vegetables long after the rainy season) and most importantly keep more food to avoid starvation.
If you have any questions