‘How to preserve beans, other food crops for years without chemicals’
Dr. Patricia Pessu is the Acting Executive Director of the Nigeria Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) in Ilorin, Kwara State. She spoke to Head of Agro-Economy Desk, FEMI IBIROGBA, on scientific products and processes developed by the institute to tackle post-harvest losses, newly researched products to preserve beans without chemical deposits and how to disseminate the technologies, among other issues.
Post-harvest challenges are enormous in Nigeria. How can some of the challenges be resolved through technologies developed by the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI)?
Post-harvest losses could be addressed along the value chains. We have losses that occur at the harvest, drying, transportation, storage and the market levels.
So, addressing losses at each of these levels will go a long way in reducing the post-harvest losses.
If we look at the various stages in the value chain, you will see that a lot of losses occur at harvesting.
What we do is to develop technologies that can prevent the losses. So, at the harvesting level, depending on the crop, handling at the point of harvesting is crucial.
The maturity and the equipment used in harvesting play important roles in managing losses.
For fruits and vegetables, harvest handling is germane. If harvesting is done properly, you will have a very good product taken to storage.
For roots and tubers, if you take bruised tubers of yam to the barn, if not cured, the bruise will expose the yam to attacks by spoilage organisms.
So, if handling during harvesting is properly done and at the right time, you have reduced the chances of spoilage and losses.
What has NSPRI put in place to tackle these challenges?
We have developed standard operating procedures and technologies to reduce post-harvest losses for various agricultural crops.
For example, there is the fish smoking kiln and ice fish box for fish and livestock products. For fruits and vegetables, we have ventilated stackable crates.
For grains, we have the Inert Atmosphere Silo. We have various crop dryers (mechanical, electrical and solar).
Will you talk about the inert silos?
The inert atmosphere silo is a structure developed for bulk storage of grains without the use of synthetic chemicals. The technology is about creating an inert environment for storage.
The oxygen in the storage environment has been replaced with nitrogen that does not support life.
We have stored grains (cowpea, sorghum, wheat, paddy rice etc.) with this device in our various locations.
In our Ibadan office, beans were stored for 24 months without any loss in quality. This technology is one of the patented technologies of the institute and is opened for commercialisation.
Have people been taking up this particular technology?
Yes. We have built units in strategic places like the Kano grains market.
We have also built a dual 250-tonne capacity for a private university in the country. We have also built for other grain merchants across the country.
And will you please explain the solar dryer developed by the institute?
Losses start from improper drying of crops after harvest. If grains or other crops are not properly dried before storage, mouldiness sets in and insects attack them easily.
With the solar dryer, the heat is trapped in an enclosure. This implies that the product can dry faster, eliminate contaminants and are more hygienically processed.
We have come up with different solar tents for different products to reduce the agro-product losses.
We recommend post-harvest technologies based on the product, capacity and the financial capability of the farmer or processor.
Are these technologies cost-effective for end-users?
Yes, that is why we have them in various sizes and types, depending on what the individual can afford.
What other technologies have you developed that can be of interest to farmers?
NSPRI Dust is a grain protectant for non-chemical storage of grains. This technology has also been patented. It’s also open for commercialisation.
Parabolic shaped solar dryer is made of transparent acrylic polythene materials, which is able to generate solar heat capable of drying most of the agricultural perishable crops.
The temperature obtained is higher than other types of solar dryers.
What are sources of the heat for the kilns, considering the state of power supply in the country?
Our design is a multi-power model. The heat source can be either gas, electric or charcoal, depending on what the processor wants.
Is the ice fish box available in different capacities?
For now, it is only in one capacity (20kg).
As the acting Executive Director of NSPRI, where are you taking the institute to?
My dream is to make NSPRI more visible, proffering solutions to all actors in the post-harvest value chain that will create jobs, increase income, and boost improved livelihood, food quality and safety.
Also, to ensure NSPRI becomes a centre of excellence in post-harvest research and improved collaboration with the other stakeholders.
One of the challenges is that farmers hardly want to take up new technologies. How do you want to make them embrace them?
We have some adopted villages where we demonstrate the technologies.
So, we will continue to identify communities for suitable technology demonstration.
With that, we will expose the technologies to them through their groups; through enlightenment programmes (print and media) and by organising workshops.