SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

Community of Practice on Food Loss Reduction

The Food Processing Innovation Lab Builds on Hermetic Storage Success

The Community of Practice (CoP) moderator has exchanged with Betty A. Bugusu from Purdue University to consolidate information on Purdue’s experience in the framework of the Food Processing Innovation Lab.

Some main issues causing post-harvest losses for grains relate to drying and storage technologies, what is Purdue University doing on this regard? 

“The rapid spread of hermetic grain storage bags among smallholder farmers in Africa and South Asia has drawn the attention of the Feed The Future Food Processing Innovation Lab (FPL) researchers at Purdue University to grain drying. Grain must be dry when placed in hermetic storage. Grain that is put into hermetic storage with too much moisture will become moldy and unsafe for human consumption. If it is intended for seed use, the germination will be reduced. However, smallholder farmers in humid areas of Africa and Asia do not have many practical grain drying options. One of the goals of the FPL is to develop practical and profitable solar or biomass fired small scale grain drying alternatives by 2019”.

In the last years you have led the development and utilization of a widespread hermetic grain storage bag known as PICS. Could you illustrate more about it?

“The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags are the most commonly available hermetic grain storage bags for smallholder farmers in Africa. Almost 5 million PICS bags have been sold since 2007. They are manufactured in a dozen countries in Africa and two countries in Asia. For cowpea in West and Central Africa, PICS bags are the most common type of smallholder storage technology. They are used for almost 20% of the grain stored on farms (Bokar et al, 2014). After PICS showed the potential of the smallholder farmer market, several other companies are now manufacturing and retailing hermetic grain storage bags for that market including GrainPro, A to Z Textiles, Kuraray Asia Pacific., Oxy-Low Systems, Fasoplast, and Emergent Utility”.

The FPL seems to involve different partners in Africa to move forward in this domain, where do you stand at?

“FPL researchers from Purdue in the US, the Institute for Food Technology (ITA) in Senegal, the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA), the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and the Cooperative University College of Kenya (CUCK) are developing alternative solar and biomass fired dryers including business models for the manufacturing and retailing of such technology. Initial pilot testing will be conducted in the Kolda area of Senegal and the Kakamega region of Kenya”.

How FPL is implementing its activities in Africa, knowing the complexity of the post-harvest losses issues and towards a significant reduction of food losses?

“The FPL team of engineers, entomologists, gender specialists, and agricultural economists will consider both the biophysical, logistical, and the socio-economic constraints of harvesting, drying, and storage practices. For example, in many parts of Africa women are responsible for grain drying and storage. With open-air drying they struggle to fit grain drying tasks into busy days of preparing food, caring for children and other household tasks. Those grain drying tasks include stirring the grain to promote even drying and covering grain during rainstorms. Any improved grain drying system would need to fit their physical strength, capital availability, and time commitments. In the extension process, FPL will need to cope with the fact that many women will not attend mixed gender public grain storage demonstrations, but might participate in women-only demonstrations organized through community women’s groups.  Another example is that during the major growing season in much of Africa, maize is harvested and stored wet (~ 25-35% moisture) in piles in the field until it is transported to the home for drying. Much of the molding and loss of germination occurs in that initial wet storage where deterioration is very rapid. Repetitive grain wetting cycles due to frequent rains in the major harvesting season prevent rapid drying under current open-air drying practices. Researchers are asking if an incremental harvest linked to greater grain drying capacity would substantial improve grain quality and reduce post-harvest storage losses”.


Recent related resources on this theme

Adoption of on-farm hermetic storage for cowpea in West and Central Africa in 2012

Moussa, B., et al., Adoption of on-farm hermetic storage for cowpea in West and Central Africa in 2012, Journal

of Stored Products Research (2014) 

Market building for post-harvest technology through large-scale extension efforts

Baributsa, D., et al., Market building for post-harvest technology through large-scale extension efforts, Journal

of Stored Products Research (2014)