Evaporative Cooling Technologies for Vegetable Preservation in Kenya

Evaporative Cooling Technologies for Vegetable Preservation in Kenya
Daniel Frey, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Faculty Research Director, MIT D-Lab
Leon Glicksman, Professor of Building Technology and Mechanical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Eric Verploegen, Research Engineer, MIT D-Lab

Period of performance: 

September 2019 to August 2021
vegetable preservation, smallholder farmers, kenya, natural cooling, cooling, natural humidifier, agriculture technology, food

Abstract: 

The lack of affordable and effective postharvest fruit and vegetable cooling and storage solutions poses a significant challenge for smallholder farmers that can lead to spoilage and reduced income. Most techniques for cooling and storing fruits and vegetables rely on electricity, which is either unaffordable or not available for many smallholder farmers, especially those living in remote areas on less than $3 a day. The solution proposed by this research team is a storage technology that uses the natural evaporation of water to create a cool and humid environment that prevents rot and dehydration, all without the need for electricity. Such evaporative cooling chambers are particularly suited for hot, dry regions and countries with some access to water and limited or unaffordable access to electricity, such as Kenya.

A collaborative team from MIT D-Lab will study evaporative cooling chambers designed to meet the needs of smallholder farmers in low-income, rural communities in Kenya to refine their design and better understand user behavior and pathways to adoption. The research will be conducted in partnership with researchers from University of Nairobi’s Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, who have extensive experience working with low-income rural communities on issues related to horticulture and improving livelihoods. The team will build and test evaporative cooling chambers in rural Kenya to optimize the design for performance, practical construction, and user preferences. This project will build evidence for funders and implementing organizations to support the dissemination of these technologies that address postharvest storage challenges.