for Sustainable Livelihood to Rural Women

The proven technology of dehydration is already applied to nearly 70 food products with data and has resulted in starting micro-enterprises in …...

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INNOVATIVE SOLAR FOOD for Sustainable Livelihood to Rural Women  Nearly 30 per cent of the fruits and vegetables in India are wasted due to lack of food processing units. Prof. M Ramakrishna Rao discusses about an innovative solar energy–based fruit and vegetable dryer that helps in processing of raw produce. The use of this dryer has led to value addition of products for farmers, establishment of co-operatives and micro-enterprises, and creation of employment opportunities for youth and women.


he Indian food processing industry is lagging behind many small countries because of high energy requirements and high capital investment industry. No appropriate technology is available in our country to meet these conditions. To overcome these difficulties, an innovative technology in the form of solar cabinet dryer was introduced by the Society for Energy, Environment and Development (SEED) to process fruits, vegetables, and forest produce with zero energy cost.

Innovative Solar Cabinet Dryers

Processing of innovative solar dried apple fruit slices


| Akshay Urja | December 2015

The integration of solar–thermal energy and solar photovoltaic technologies in the design and development of solar cabinet dryer has resulted in a new and innovative technology related to drying process, which is called ‘solar-powered solar air dryer’. In this, solar radiation, incident on the transparent glass window, located on the top of cabinet dryer, passes into the closed cabinet and heats up the air entered from air inlet louvers at the bottom of the cabinet. The heat energy of solar radiation is trapped in the cabinet and heats up the air molecules. The result is that the wavelength of solar radiation shifts from visible region to infrared region (IR). The top cover glass does not allow the hot air (IR) to escape through the glass from the cabinet. The hot air passes through the wet products in the trays set for drying and carries the moist air from the product to the top space below the glass. The temperature inside the closed cabinet will rise by 15–30°C above the ambient temperature, raising the cabinet temperature to 50–70°C as a result of greenhouse effect. The hot air, with moisture content in the cabinet, is exhausted continuously by solar fan operated by the solar photo-electric power. This phenomenon introduces forced circulation in the cabinet, resulting in high efficiency of the dryer. The source of thermal energy required for drying and for supply of photovoltaic power are from solar radiation during the day. A close synchronization is maintained in regulating and controlling the drying process between evaporation of moisture from the product and speed of the exhaust fan. This regulates solar power to the fan through drying process with variable solar intensity during the day.

Innovative Solar Food Processing Technology for Sustainable Livelihood to Rural Women 


‘SEED’ has designed a range of solar cabinet dryers (Picture 1) starting from 8 kg to maximum 200 kg capacity. ‘SEED’ is planning a 500 kg model to add to the range of various capacities of cabinet dryers. These dryers are multi-purpose, applicable to multiple crops, and work for 300 days in a year. ‘SEED’ has installed 200 cabinet dryers in 15 states in the country and initiated 100 micro-enterprises in solar food processing in 18 states in our country. This includes export of five commercial model solar dryers to five countries, viz., Australia, Mauritius, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Tanzania.

Picture 1: ‘SEED’ solar cabinet dryer models

Application of Dryers in Food Processing


The new solar-powered solar cabinet dryer is a powerful tool in food processing technology, especially in dehydration processes. Food processing industry is struggling hard to come out from the present poor state of affairs. There are two important factors namely, absence of food processing units to reduce the spoilage of fruits and vegetables and the rising energy costs that are affecting the growth of the food processing industry in India. A study by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) titled, “Horticulture sectors in India: State level experience” stated that the combined annual production of fruits and vegetables in India, estimated to be over 227 million tonnes is likely to cross over 337 million tonnes by 2021. Of this, 77 million tonnes are fruits and about 150 million tonnes are vegetables. Further, the study reveals that the post-harvesting losses of fruits and vegetables are worth over N 2 lakh crore each year due to absence of food processing units. These dryers can be used in food processing technology especially in dehydration process of fruits and vegetables for value addition and preservation with long shelflife on a commercial scale in the country. ‘SEED’ has processed 70 products on a commercial scale and 20 of them have been released to supermarkets and high-ended shops. The wide variety of products are as follows: Some solar dehydrated food products (Picture 2) are mentioned below as category-wise: ƒƒ Fruits: Mango bars/rolls, guava bars/rolls, chikku bars/rolls, mixed fruit bars/rolls, khatta-meetha bars/rolls, papaya bars/rolls, apple bars/rolls, plum bars/rolls, pineapple bars/rolls, strawberry bars/rolls, apricot, grapes, banana, and fruit slices ƒƒ Vegetables: Potatoes, donda, carrot, tomato, mushrooms, bittergourd, onion, amchur, coconut, etc. in the form of slices ƒƒ Green leafy vegetables: Curry leaves, spinach leaves, fenugreek leaves, tamarind

Solar dryer

December 2015 | Akshay Urja |


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leaves, mint leaves, drumstick leaves, coriander leaves, amaranth leaves, etc., in the form of powder and small pieces ƒƒ Spices: Ginger, mango ginger, garlic, red chillies, green chillies, pepper, etc. in the form of powders and small pieces ƒƒ Cereals: Millet (Ragi), soya, etc., in the form of flours ƒƒ Forest produce: Karaya gum, Karakkaya, Sugandapala (Budipalagadda), aloe vera, ƒƒ amla, honey, Nelavemmu, Maredugaddalu, Satavari, etc., in the form of powders ƒƒ Medicinal and herbal products: Rosemary, Spirulina, Tulsi leaves, etc. ƒƒ Food items: Maida, vermicelli, noodles, pickled chillies, fish, etc. ƒƒ Chemicals: Silicon carbide, cellulose, etc. ƒƒ Nutritive supplement: Nutritive supplementary drink for youth and service personnel. Processing of innovative solar dried mango fruit slices

Test Market As already mentioned, 20 out of 70 processed products were released to test markets that include supermarkets and high-ended shops in twin cities and in some cities like Bangalore and Visakhapatnam for customer feedback and acceptance. This is the best test in the value chain of the product, which is missing in Innovation and applied Research in Indian R&D organizations. Field trails (sales) in the test markets indicate success of our innovations and the quality of our research.

Picture 2: Some solar dried food products



| Akshay Urja | December 2015

Training Programme for Skills Development Micro-enterprises in food processing Training programmes were conducted for women, self-help groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), rural entrepreneurs, and youth for upgradation of skills and know-how of processing of food products in solar dryers. About 1,218 women, selfhelp groups, NGOs, and youth were trained in solar food processing on a variety of food products in solar dryers. These training programmes were conducted at ‘SEED’, Hyderabad as well as at Rural Training Centre, Tholkatta village, for the benefit of trainees, trainers, and entrepreneurs.

Internees training programme from educational institutions Every year, students are trained in projects related to solar food processing technology which is being introduced in all the food, science, and technology departments of various institutions, such as Gitam University, Visakhapatnam; K L University, Vijayawada; ANGRU; Osmania University; JNTUH, Hyderabad; Sathavahana University, Karimnagar; Agriculture College, Baptla; MOP Vaishnavi College for Women (Autonomous) University, Chennai, etc.

Micro-enterprises in processing of food products The proven technology of dehydration is already applied to nearly 70 food products with data and has resulted in starting micro-enterprises in the country with wide

Innovative Solar Food Processing Technology for Sustainable Livelihood to Rural Women 

THESE DRYERS CAN BE USED IN FOOD PROCESSING TECHNOLOGY ESPECIALLY IN DEHYDRATION PROCESS OF FRUITS International training programmes for entrepreneurs ‘SEED’ has conducted training programmes both in India and abroad for entrepreneurs. AND VEGETABLES FOR An entrepreneur from M/s Lyons Fishermen Co-operative Society Ltd, Mauritius came VALUE ADDITION AND for training in processing of fish in solar dryers at SEED Laboratories and purchased PRESERVATION WITH a commercial model solar dryer for processing of fish in Mauritius. Another two LONG SHELF-LIFE ON entrepreneurs came from M/s Byron Bay Banana Pty. Ltd, Australia for processing banana fruits in solar dryers and from M/s Honey Foods Company, Riyadh, Saudi A COMMERCIAL SCALE Arabia. Also, University of Malaysia has purchased a commercial model solar cabinet IN THE COUNTRY. dryer for processing of fruits and vegetables. Recently, SEED has conducted an ‘SEED’ HAS PROCESSED international training programme at Zanzibar Technology and Business Incubation 70 PRODUCTS ON A Centre, Zanzibar (East Africa) for processing of mango, guava, and leafy vegetables in solar dryers. COMMERCIAL SCALE AND 20 OF THEM HAVE Impact of New Technologies Based on Solar BEEN RELEASED TO Energy Applications SUPERMARKETS AND ƒƒ Solar energy use through solar dryers and food processing products: It eliminates HIGH-ENDED SHOPS. usage of fossil fuel, reduces greenhouse gas emission, has zero energy cost, is range of products. This empowers women, creates job opportunities, and generates higher income. Around 45 leading micro-enterprises are established in the country such as Dangoria Charitable Trust at Naraspur, Andhra Pradesh; HESCO, Dehradun, Uttarakhand; College of Food Science and Technology, Baptla, Andhra Pradesh; Kovel Foundation, and Laya, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh; Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore, Karnataka; Magan Sangralaya Samithi, Wardha, Maharashtra for implementing solar food processing technology of various products in the country.

eco-friendly, and finally reduces 36,288 kg of carbon emission gasses per tonne of fruits bars. ƒƒ Solar food processing: The post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables are estimated to be about 30 per cent in India. Only less than 5 per cent of the total production in the country at present is being processed. This innovative technology will help greatly in reducing the post-harvest losses by processing of fruits and vegetables and forest produce and will facilitate value addition and income generation for farmers and women. The proven technology of dehydration process is applied to nearly 70 food products. This dehydration process data developed with this technology helped to establish 100 micro-enterprises in the country, thereby helping women in enhancing their livelihood. ƒƒ Skill development: The training programmes in integrated technologies created opportunity for skill development of rural women and youth in processing of fruits and vegetables in clean and hygienic conditions producing highly nutritive products. ƒƒ Capacity building: The very concept of micro-enterprise in the rural and urban setup gives an excellent capacity for the production, management, and marketing, thus enhancing the capabilities of women and youth. ƒƒ Replication: The replication of this technology is already proven with excellent results through the starting and expansion of micro-enterprises in the country during this period. ƒƒ Academic programmes in educational institutions: Introducing solar food processing technology in the educational curriculum for students and faculty will facilitate growth in the food processing technology in the country through further R&D activities that will help the entrepreneurs, self-help groups, and stakeholders to utilize this technology with zero energy cost and clean green energy. Prof. M Ramakrishna Rao, Society for Energy, Environment & Development (SEED), Hyderabad, Telangana, India. Email: [email protected]

Processing of innovative solar dried pineapple fruit slices

December 2015 | Akshay Urja |