Sun-Powered Dehydrators for the Developing World: A Student-Led Project Addressing Food Preservation as an Aspect of Global Food Insecurity
In the same areas where hunger stunts growth of one in three children (WFP, 2015), the FAO estimates 25-50% of food is wasted (2015a). Simply for lack of preservation, not only are foods wasted, but so are the resources used to grow them (FAO, 2015b). Dehydration is a straightforward preservation approach offering an effective way to prevent food spoilage, retain what cannot be sold or consumed immediately, and provide diverse marketing potential.
Targeted regions often experience intermittent access to electricity, making standard heated and fanned dehydration ineffective, therefore crops are dehydrated directly on the ground, inefficiently and in unsanitary conditions (World Bank, 2015a). Sun-Powered Dehydration uses solar rays to power convection currents, which flow through the structure and carry moisture away from food within while providing a protected framework where foods are less likely to be contaminated. However they are often bulky, expensive to build and difficult to transport or build en masse. By developing a commercially available passive-air solar dehydrator, a team of Texas A&M students is creating a solution to this problem.
Initial testing has been completed in the U.S. and Rwanda, resulting in positive feedback.
The next phase of development will amplify the technological impact by creating a design that packs and ships easily so that NGOs and disaster relief agencies can purchase in large quantities and distribute these easy-to-use dehydrators to many communities in developing nations, where access to sustainable energy is scarce. Further trialing will occur in Texas, Haiti, Rwanda, Uganda and Guatemala.