Publication - Technology Case Study: Clean Energy Agro-Processing

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Technology Case Study: Clean Energy Agro-Processing
Powering Agriculture
Augusta Abrahamse, Headley Jacobus, Mikael Matossian, Ethiopia Haileyesus, Sandra Chavez
Published in
March 2020
A significant portion of agricultural products undergo some degree of transformation between harvest and final use. Processes such as milling, grinding, grating, and drying help preserve agricultural products and add value to them. However, many smallholder farmers who grow crops on less than two hectares perform this work by hand, which is both time-intensive and produces products of lower quality than machine-processed products.

Conventional, large-scale processing technologies powered by diesel, gasoline, or large AC motors often fail to meet the needs of smallholder farmers. In general, the capacity of both fossil fuel- and AC- powered processing equipment is too large for the small quantities of crops that smallholder farmers periodically bring for processing. As a result, the incumbent technologies create a semi-centralized network of service providers that caters to communities with larger population densities.

This inefficient system presents a market opportunity for small-scale, decentralized, low-power agro-processing equipment. When powered by solar or other renewable energy sources, processing machinery can operate in areas with poor or no access to grid power and provide cleaner, more environmentally friendly operations. This case study discusses both challenges and opportunities for small-scale, low-powered agro-processing, drawing on lessons learned from Powering Agriculture innovators and providing recommendations to bring this technology to underserved markets.