1000 Solutions - January 23, 2020

Solar Greenhouse Dryer, improving farmers’ lives while reducing food waste

Written by Tristan Lebleu 3 min read

A solution for farmers in low-income communities.

All the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions are labelled because of their environmental, social and economic impact. However, some of them have the power to radically change people’s lives. The Solar Greenhouse Dryer developed by Covestro is one of those solutions.

Covestro, a world leader in heat insulation foams and transparent polycarbonate plastics, has developed a parabolic shaped structure made from UV coated sheets to dehydrate farm produce. It’s an efficient, decentralized, cost-effective and sustainable solution for reducing post-harvest losses in agricultural commodities.

Temperature inside the structure reaches on average around 15-20°C higher than outside temperature. And the unit is cladded with polycarbonate sheets in order to filter UV rays effectively and protect the material from UV rays which could otherwise impact the final quality of the dried product. The ventilation system, which ensures air circulation inside the unit and removes moisture, is entirely powered by solar panels. Basically, farmers just need to stock their produce in the structure, and the sun does the rest.

Drying farm produce is a way to protect it from the vagaries of climate, such as droughts, where entire crops can be lost. Post-harvest losses of farm products, especially of fruits, vegetables and other perishables, have been estimated to be over $14 billion in India. For low-income farmers, this can mean losing their only stream of revenue.

According to Covestro, “the drying process increases the value of the fruits by over 3,000%- a number that can make the difference between dependence and independence for farmers in India”.

Behind the technology also lies a consortium approach, solution marketing and market linkage for different agro-commodities with a special focus on exports to realize improved earning capabilities for small and marginal farmers.

In southern India, “Covestro has brought together local polycarbonate manufacturer Vivunes, dried fruit manufacturer MCI Agro Technologies and the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) with a view to supporting farmers". With their help, 70 small and marginal farmers can now benefit from solar dryers and get the most out of their crops.

Through this program, Covestro contributes towards Government of India’s mission of doubling farmers income by 2022 while reducing food waste, making it a perfect example of a solution with clear environmental and economic impacts, and an obvious choice for the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label.

Solar Greenhouse Dryer is one of two labelled projects from Covestro. In a recent press release, Dr. Christian Haessler, Head of Sustainability at Covestro, welcomed the new labeling: “This is an excellent confirmation by independent experts that our company is much committed to truly sustainable developments, which are beneficial for society, create value and reduce the environmental impact. This includes above all the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Written by Tristan Lebleu on January 23, 2020

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