Bag technology that could keep cassava fresh for days unveiled

The first-ever all-Africa post-harvest congress and exhibition was held in Nairobi in March. It was organised by a consortium of universities, research and development institutions. They included the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the World Food Preservation Centre under the leadership of the University of Nairobi and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The three-day event at Safari Park Hotel brought together 600 delegates from different countries, all with the common goal of finding ways and innovations to help reduce food wastage and boost food security. It offered a platform where both public and private sector stakeholders in the food supply chain, including farmers, investors, transporters, researchers, academia, innovators and entrepreneurs, interacted to mingle and share ideas.

The theme of the congress was ‘Reducing Post-Harvest Losses: Sustainable Solutions for Africa.’ Africa’s population is expected to double by the year 2050, while food security still remains one of the major challenges of the 21st century.

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The situation could get worse, as the constantly growing population will need a 70 per cent increase in production to meet its food and nutritional needs.

Increased production requires additional resources such as land, water, energy, labour and other agro-inputs, which are scarce. However, as the world looks to increasing productivity, it is also critical to focus on proper use of the available food.

Nearly 30 per cent of all the food produced worldwide goes to waste through the supply chain and during transportation. This is about 1.3 billion tonnes of all the food produced in the world, a major blow to the economy and food security.

If only we could stop or significantly reduce this wastage, we would be able to feed many more people and help eradicate hunger worldwide.

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Thus was the message and theme of the event. Different meetings were held daily alongside exhibitions, including the finalists of the Cassava Innovation Challenge launched last year by the Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to uncover novel solutions to increase cassava shelf-life.

Exhibitors showcased a variety of products, services and equipment, targeting the entire postharvest market.

The innovators’ hub caught our attention the most, as participants went to the depths of their creativity to come up with interesting technological innovations to help in food preservation and ultimately reduce wastage.



A cassava storage solution?

Among the highlights of the three-day congress was an evening to fete the winners in the Cassava Innovation Challenge. It was a wonderful session, full of excitement and expectation, which team NRI (The University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute) and FUNNABB (Federal University of Agriculture, Nigeria) will not forget in a hurry.

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The team scooped top honours in the cassava challenge to walk away with a grant of $500,000 along with technical assistance to test and market its ‘NRIcassavabag’.

It is a bag with a built-in curing technology that can keep cassava fresh for at least eight days after harvest.

Among other things, the bag concept builds on earlier research that showed that under appropriate levels of temperature and humidity, cassava is capable of healing the wounds sustained during harvest. Normally, the worst point for cassava is between the field and the factory, as this is where most damage occurs.

“This is known as ‘postharvest physiological deterioration,’” explained Prof Ben Bennett, NRI’s deputy director



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