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Technology Introduced To Eliminate Fruits and Vegetables Wastage

6 July 2010 No Comment

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For Immediate Release

Technology Introduced To Eliminate Fruits and Vegetables Wastage

St. Johns, Antigua: July 6, 2010… Agro –processors, in Antigua and Barbuda are poised to benefit from an inexpensive hands-on technology to assist with their food preservations.

Elyse Petersen, Food Scientist, and a Peace Corp Volunteer, is currently in Antigua on a six months assignment to assess the food preservation situation and provide technical assistance to aid in development of agriculture, agro-processing, and nutrition.

Petersen, who is working out of the Office of the Inter –American Cooperation of Agriculture (IICA) and is liaising with the Ministry Of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & the Environment.

The food Scientist, explained that based on observations, Antigua and Barbuda has the potential to maximize production in the areas of fruits and vegetables and fish. She said, however, that the country is limited as it relates to preservation methods to maintain the supply of seasonal produce throughout the year.

She opined, “this problem has traditionally caused the country to suffer from glut, or over production of produce that can’t be consumed, therefore going to waste. From my work with the pepper sauce, jam, jelly, guava cheese, and other processors on the island I see that there is great potential to utilize the sun to process these produce.”

Petersen disclosed, it is against that backdrop with the help of a group of students from Kansas State University a solar dryer has been developed specifically for Antigua and Barbuda which can be constructed with local materials for minimal cost, between $150 to $250 EC.

 The food Scientist, added that in order to kick start the introduction of these solar dryers consultations were held with the Ministry of Education to integrate the solar dryers into the school curriculum, in the areas of the Industrial Arts, Agriculture Science, and Home Economics departments.

To this end, six dryers have been constructed at various secondary schools on the island which will be used to process surplus fruits and vegetables from the schools’ garden.

One of the dryers has been constructed at Barbuda’s High School with sponsorship from Barbuda Express to help transport resources to the sister island, Petersen said.

She explained that two workshops involving the agro-processors and home economics teachers to display the principles of solar drying and the specifics of the dryers built at the schools, were held in conjunction with the Inter-American Institute for the Cooperation of Agriculture.

However, although, Antigua & Barbuda is in the tropics, Petersen added, the project is being hampered by the lack of sunshine, for the past weeks.

As a result, facilitators were only able to process fruit in a dryer once. She added however that the final products were successfully preserved. This means, “the dryers are efficient enough to properly dry fruits and vegetables.”

Petersen stressed, however, that the stipulated guidelines must be followed to guarantee the 12 months life span.

“If processed properly fruits such as mango can be stored and eaten for up to a year after processing. Mango isn’t all these dryers can process; it also can be used for pawpaw, banana, carrots, tomato, peppers, fish, and even meat. These products do not require refrigeration and can be eaten as is or put into other recipes such as cakes, breads, trail mix, and ice cream,” Petersen exclaimed.

Continuing on the various usage of the solar dryer, Petersen said, “Vegetables can easily be reconstituted in soups and sauces. Dried peppers can be crushed down to the styles of pepper we put on pizza, and or pounded down to a powder to use in spices blends for cooking. Really, what this means is, we can be eating local mango in February, mango from your own trees.”

The food Scientist added further that the dryers that were built at the secondary schools are intended more for commercial usages, however, a smaller version of the dryer which requires less material that is ideal for home use.

In explaining the process involved, Petersen expressed, the solar dryer is an effective method of eliminating   fruit wastage. “We know that there are many members of the community that have beautiful mango trees in their yard which fruit nicely every year, but, after a big harvest the family is obligated to eat what they can and give to friends what they can’t, but many times fruit goes to waste.”

She added that “…using a solar dryer is an affordable and easy way to preserve what produce you can’t consume right away. The dryer is designed from a wooden frame which is covered in plastic.”

Petersen explained that, “this plastic allows the sun’s rays to hit the food and at the same time insulate the solar heat. This increase in temperature in the dryer plays a key role in altering the humidity of the air and quickly drying out the food.”

She suggested that farmer, agro-processors, fishermen, and anyone with excess fruit trees consider a solar dryer. Statistics has shown that annually, Antigua & Barbuda loss 1 million pounds to mangoes due to  spoliage.

So far, a workshop is being planned in conjunction with the Mango Fest for early August. Another workshop will also be held in Barbuda. She noted that there is great potential for these dryers in Barbuda as an alternative to corning fish.

For further information, residents are invited to visit and join the Facebook group that has been created for this project.  Pictures and other valuable information about solar drying in Antigua and Barbuda are available. You can find the group by Google or facebook searching “Solar is drying in Antigua” Here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112672555439796.

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