Sun Buckets commits to working in partnership with Acceso Peanut Company to (1) better understand the causes and extent of postharvest peanut loss in Haiti and (2) design, build, and field test a prototype crop dryer utilizing solar thermal storage technology, a product that can also be used for cooking after the peanut harvest season. The team will include a R&D engineer, a technician, and the Principal Investigator Dr. Bruce Elliott-Litchfield, a professor in Agriculture and Biochemical Engineering and specialist in global crop drying and postharvest processing.
During the first quarter of 2019, Acceso will provide access to market channels and to data for analyzing peanut losses and Sun Buckets will work with Innovation Laboratory for Peanut (ILP) to track yields, document postharvest practices, and document losses in the Haitian peanut market. This will test the hypothesis that current drying practices are the foundational cause of most peanut losses. Sun Buckets will provide a report of findings that will inform prototype creation.
Sun Buckets will also design, build, and test a prototype dryer to reduce losses. The team will utilize an already proven product, a Sun Bucket system, that uses a parabolic dish and storage container that collects, stores, and recovers solar thermal energy in a portable format. The prototype will collect thermal energy to not only heat air and product, but also move air as needed for a dryer. This new product will act as an alternative for low cost crop drying. The prototype will be tested for airflow rate, temperature rise, and drying capacity. Field tests will be conducted in three of the local production areas – Upper, Lower, and Central Plateau – and three sets of drying tests will be conducted side-by-side.
This Commitment is the first phase of a three-phase initiative to deploy clean energy drying systems for crops to support smallholder farmers in Haiti. In the second phase Sun Buckets and Acceso plan to further develop and more widely test the peanut dryers in Haiti. If successful, Sun Buckets will deploy clean energy drying systems for crops like maize, beans, and rice.
First quarter, January-March 2019
1. Study sources and extent of postharvest peanut losses in Haiti.
2. Engage with experts, e.g., Jamie Rhoads at Innovation Lab for Peanut, who has spent over eight years working in Haiti.
Deliverable: Written summary report of primary causes of postharvest peanut losses in Haiti.
Second quarter, April-June 2019
1. Design and build prototype dryer.
2. Laboratory test in US.
Deliverables: Prototype peanut dryer based on Sun Buckets solar energy platform, plus initial performance results from laboratory testing.
Third quarter, July-September 2019
1. Field test in Haiti during and after peanut harvest.
2. Revise design based on field tests and rebuild prototypes accordingly.
Deliverables: Performance results from field testing prototype dryer in Haiti, plus feedback for modifications and redesign.
Fourth quarter, October-December 2019
1. Field test in Haiti during and after second peanut harvest.
2. Analyze and share results.
3. If successful, enter second phase of the activity to build the next generation of the dryer for wider testing in Haiti during 2020.
Deliverables: Report on second round of performance data from field testing of prototype, feedback for redesign, and plans for Phase Two of the project.
Note: Peanut harvest and drying seasons in Haiti are approximately June/July and October/November. As such, these months will be key periods for testing efficacy and obtaining input for improvements.
Throughout Haiti, the domestic peanut market is characterized by low production volumes and high seasonal price volatility. As such, Haitian peanut farmers often store their peanut harvest for several months until they are able to receive more favorable prices in the market. Unfortunately, poor postharvest practices and the conditions within smallholder farmers’ homes are not conducive to crop storage.
Peanuts can often develop aflatoxin (mold spore) contamination because farmers do not sufficiently dry their product before stocking or because the peanuts are exposed to humid conditions without proper ventilation. In particular, the common practice of drying peanuts in Haiti’s warm climate over a 4-5 day period by spreading them on the ground - and moving the warm, moist peanuts inside at night - is suspected to provide the conditions for significant loss by insect and microbial attack. These poor practices result in the introduction of contaminated peanuts into the formal sector or in the consumption of contaminated peanuts by the farmers and their families. While non-threatening in small doses, the consumption of aflatoxin peanuts in large amounts or by sick and/or malnourished children can result in serious health issues.
In addition to the issues of postharvest peanut losses and general food security, there is a need to address the global cooking crisis. The World Health Organization asserts that 3 billion people cook and heat using solid fuels, creating health-damaging pollutants, with exposure being highest among women & children, and more than 4 million people a year die prematurely from associated indoor air pollution. Impoverished people in Haiti endure desperate situations, forced to use almost any combustible material as cooking fuel. In addition to being dangerous, this creates harmful emissions, or results in deforestation. This appalling problem is far-reaching, severe, and disproportionately impacts women and children. While cooking fires appear small, their complex impact on the energy impoverished - and on the environment - is immense.