Solar energy is a form of sustainable energy with a great potential for a wide variety offood processing technologies. The drying process is one of the most widely usedmethods for preservation and is prominent for utilization of solar energy. Solar drying is atechnology used to dry various foods such as vegetables, fruits and cereals which areseasonal. Recent studies have shown that the postharvest losses in Kenya and otherdeveloping countries are about 50% of the fruits and vegetables grown and 25% ofharvested food grain. These food products are harvested while in plenty and preservedby drying thus ensuring adequate supply throughout the year. Solar drying has achievedsome benefits to cottage industries and SME’s in rural Kenya through improved shelf lifeof farm produce, increased food security throughout the year, reduction of bulk of freshproduce and postharvest losses and increased value addition used for incomegeneration.
The results to be presented in the poster mainly focus on opportunities and challengesobserved in the installation of a solar tunnel dryer in a rural setting in Kenya. It will alsohighlight the results of new product development based on dehydrated mangoes andbananas using the tunnel solar dryer and the changes observed in the nutritional andphysical characteristics of the fruits. The developments and potentials of solar dryingtechnologies for drying fruits with reference to this project with rural pilot plants and SMES’s in Kenya will also be detailed. This project was very essential in exploringappropriate designs for solar drying using forced convection dryers. This is because thecurrent practice of using indirect natural convection is faced with a number ofchallenges. Although the natural convection solar dryers require lower investmentswhich are an important consideration for small enterprises, it is difficult to control thedrying temperatures and has limited drying rates. Solar drying was observed to reducepostharvest losses, costs and/or difficulties of product packaging, handling, storageanddistribution. The project was able to provide technical and innovative technology tosupport rural households in adoption of solar drying technology thus reducing postharvesting loss of fruits, improving their market value and ensuring availability of foodthroughout the year. This involved training of artisans (individuals/groups) and energypromoters on design; construction and maintenance of solar dryers for demonstrationand market research on solar dried products in Kenya.
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