Meghalaya’s organic farmers now have a great helping hand in their noble endeavour to bring to the world the best of natural spices, prepared just the way nature wanted it. Zizira’s explorers have come up with a novel and indigenous design for a solar dryer that can be made virtually at home and provide a fast, safe and efficient way of drying the farmers’ produce.
This solar dryer is a gift of the ingenuity of humans, and how science can adapt to the conditions given, providing solutions to complex post-harvest problems with simple and locally available ingredients at a fraction of the cost of electrical dryers.
This will be of immense help to farmers who grow organic turmeric and ginger, among other things. Drying the rhizomes properly is a critical prerequisite for preservation and proper marketing. With the sun often playing hide and seek in the hills of this state, this solar dryer will be able to harness the solar rays quickly and efficiently to produce the drying effect that is so vital if the farmers have to sell their top quality organic produce in the market.
Zizira has been working with the farmers of Meghalaya to get the best out of their efforts, earning high value at low volumes.
Zizira’s Home-made Solar Dryer a Perfect Post-harvest Fit for Farmers
It is cheap, it can be made with things you can buy at a local store and it is easy to build. It is also something Meghalaya’s farmers need desperately, protecting them from the rainy days. Zizira explorers have come up with a design for a solar dryer to help farmers! Yes, our own design. Read on to see why we worked on it and what the end product looks like.
Here is where the story begins.
In late January 2016, Zizira explorers were out exploring and arrived at Mawtneng village, Ri-Bhoi district. The majority of the farmers in this area grows ginger and turmeric. One of the post-harvest processes is the drying of the produce. Unless sliced and dried, farmers do not find buyers for a bulk of their harvest. At present they dry on the ground. See for yourself – this is how they dry now.
Traditional Open Sun Drying
The typical subsistence farmers prefer selling their produce fresh from the field, for quick returns. However, when it comes to spices such as ginger and turmeric, the farmers are required to dry the produce before selling, to increase the shelf life and for better returns.
The challenges they face while drying are:
- The drying process requires time and labor
- In open sun drying, there is high probability of the produce getting damaged due to rain or mildew
- There is a very high chance of contamination from animals and birds.
Those reasons become so critical for the farmers being able to present a healthy product in a clean environment. Most farmers aren’t being able to provide these basics and fall back to traditional sun-drying, which ends up ion not being so market friendly.
So we put on our thinking caps and set down to find what could be done to make their lives easier? What are the alternatives? How could Zizira help? This immediately connected with our purpose of bringing prosperity to the farmers of the state. So, a dryer might be the solution.
Yes, there’s the electric drying, which surely reduces the labor. But that needs a large investment and recurring maintenance cost. So we started to hunt for other options and that is when the idea of a solar dryer came up. Our CEO had helped us think on these lines by sharing with us his views:
The secret to solar drying is heat and air flow. The other would be the greenhouse effect. Oh and two more secrets – hot air rises and black polythene which serves as the floor, absorbs the heat from the sun. We can combine all these factors to create a solar food dryer.
We want farmers to be able to make a solar dryer in one day. The first will take 10 hours but if we were to build another dryer it might take only 6 and a third might take only 4 hours? Ralph Budelman, CEO Chillibreeze
The Solar Dryer Solution!
A simple solar dryer which can be DIY type might be the solution? Solar dryer makes the drying process faster, hence reducing the labor involved as well. And, having a closed body, it can also protect the produce from rain and animal infestation.
When Zizira explorers started their homework and brainstorming, these were the critical issues on top of their minds. The idea was to build an actual, working prototype to test the theory. They finally came up with a blueprint and rough sketch of the solar dryer prototype using bamboo and polythene.
What they came up with was exciting. It was to be a solar dryer simple enough for the farmers to be able to construct it in a day’s time. The materials for the dryer could be sourced locally and the blueprint itself was simple and easy to follow. Moreover, the solar dryer will a take a lot less time to dry the produce as compared to open sun drying.
Here is a 2D blueprint of the dryer.
It took Badshai (a Zizira team member) 10 hours to build the dryer. The final output is ready for testing!
See the image below. Notice the shelves on the right side? That is where the produce will be layered for drying.
How it works: The solar energy passing through the roof heats up the air and the products inside the dryer, as well as the black polythene floor. Now air gets drawn in through a small opening at the bottom of the front side of the dryer and is heated by the floor. The heated air, while passing through and over the products absorbs moisture from them, hence resulting in fast, efficient and eco-friendly drying.
This is an initial prototype with hope that it may alleviate the farmer’s post-harvest processing challenges. Zizira explorers are taking small but sure steps and this might be a beginning of something big for the farmers of Meghalaya and the entire Northeast India region? We hope so!As we close we share with you why proper drying of spices is very important. If not done properly it may be harmful to health.
Inhibition of microbial growth in the raw material by drying is the most efficient way to reduce microbiological and aflatoxin contamination. Drying of spices to 10% moisture content or lower within 48 hours can reduce the risk of fungus growth and
consequent aflatoxin production. (Aflatoxins are very toxic and highly carcinogenic parts of molds) Source
What do you think of this model? Will it work? Let us know if you think we can do better with the design and structure of our prototype. Share your thoughts and tell us your story via the comment box below. Look forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile we will keep you updated about this Zizira DIY Solar Dryer!