Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bangladesh: CSISA and FtF Innovations Lab join hands in Bangladesh for promoting drying technology

by Alfred Schmidley

On 22 March 2014, a “Miller’s Workshop on Flatbed Drying of Parboiled Paddy” was held in Jessore, Bangladesh.  The event was co-sponsored by two US-AID-funded initiatives, the CSISA Project and the Feed the Future (FtF) Lab Project with supporting partners, IRRI, WorldFish, Practical Action, and ADMI.

The stakeholder workshop sought to test and demonstrate newly piloted flat bed drying technology with village millers and other stakeholders for drying of high-moisture freshly parboiled paddy – a new application under evaluation in Bangladesh.  This can potentially remove labor bottlenecks and drudgery in the processing of parboiled rice that is commonly eaten throughout South Asian countries.

Currently village millers sun-dry parboiled paddy on large concrete platforms.  While the sun is “free”, the platforms are expensive and take land out of production.  Moreover, the sun is not available for sufficient periods during cooler, cloudy winter months, or during the rainy season.  This produces delays in processing and a major bottleneck for farmers, millers, and other actors in the chain.

As a result of this workshop, 4 additional pilots will be established in new locations with new stakeholders who agreed to invest in the technology for the upcoming Boro season.  “Through such learning events, private sector millers and processors are convinced to directly invest in this technology, while projects such as CSISA and the FtF Innovations Lab ensure technical support and training early on for successful entry,” explains Alfred Schmidley, IRRI’s Postharvest Value Chain Specialist.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

IRRI Media Release: Wonder rice dryer

In the rural town of Bogale, Myanmar, 9 women and 16 men from the Myanmar Department of Agriculture, partner NGOs, and IRRI trained on how to operate and set up a newly designed dryer that could protect rice grains from sudden rain, pests and intense heat.

Called the solar bubble dryer, it was designed by a team of experts from the University of Hohenheim, GrainPro, Inc., and IRRI.

The name comes from the unique characteristics in its design: "solar" due to ambient conditions that provide heat from the air that flows inside the dryer and “bubble” for the dome-like shape of the cover or roof when it is set up.

“We tried several designs when we started, not one of them was the bubble design,” explained Engr. Ana Salvatierra, a researcher and postgraduate student from the University of Hohenheim, who works on the project.

“In the early designs, we included a chimney, but it was not very efficient to move air through the drying tunnel. And when there was a typhoon, the chimney fell. So, we reworked the design using small ventilators to move air. That’s when we also came up with the bubble concept,” she said.
The small ventilator inflates the bubble and circulates air. The airflow then removes water from inside the drying tunnel, where the grains are, and prevents overheating. To make sure that the grains dry evenly, they are stirred from time to time using a metal roller underneath the dryer.

“Based on our grain quality results in the lab, its drying performance is quite satisfactory,” said Engr. Salvatierra.

It can dry rice grains to a moisture content level of 10–13%, depending on whether the weather is dry or wet.

"For laboratory experiments that assess grain quality, our ideal moisture content is 14%," she said. "But, most of the time, the moisture content would depend on the milling facility, and if the grains will be used for consumption or for seed production.

"For example, if the grains will be used for seed production then it is advisable to dry to less than 12% to maintain good germination rates in storage over an extended period," she explained.

“The dryer is still a work-in-progress, but it has numerous advantages over a mechanical dryer for small farmers. It is affordable, easy to use, and is ideal for rural areas without a power grid or source of electricity,” explained Engr. Martin Gummert, head of the IRRI Postharvest Unit.

“Unlike most dryers that require higher amounts of paddy to dry, the solar bubble dryer has a capacity of 1 ton, which it can dry in 1-2 days depending if it’s sunny or rainy,” he added.

A typical recirculating batch dryer, for example, requires at least 10 tons of rice in just one drying operation. Because it needs electricity to run the dryer and fuel for the air heater at the same time, the investment and operating cost for such a dryer is higher. 

“An additional benefit of the solar bubble dryer comes from its photovoltaic solar panels that provide power to the battery of the ventilators,” said Engr. Gummert.

“For example, in Myanmar, many farming villages do not have access to electricity. The solar panels and the battery can also be used for other purposes, such as lighting the house when the dryer is not used,” he explained.

Currently, the solar bubble dryer is being tested in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Africa.

“We need to test it in different countries to optimize its design, its management, adapt it to local conditions, and minimize investment cost,” said Engr. Gummert.

Myanmar: Village-level learning alliance meetings conducted

Learning alliance partners in Maubin plan their next activities for the Summer 2014 harvesting season
by Reianne Quilloy

Two village-level learning alliance (LA) meetings were held in Maubin and Bogale Townships last March 15 and 18, 2014. These meetings aim to support ACIAR and UNOPS funded project activities and use new technologies like new varieties and postharvest technologies.

 For the Maubin Township LA meeting facilitated by Rica Flor, 44 participants ( 13 women) from the Department of Agriculture (DOA), four key project villages, partner NGOs, millers, traders,  private sector stakeholders, and IRRI personnel attended the event. Updates were provided regarding the ongoing participatory varietal selection trials and postharvest issues.
 Meanwhile, a total of 36 participants joined the Bogale LA meeting held in the Bogale Township Library and facilitated by Reianne Quilloy. There were 23 farmers (6 women); 4 from NGO; 2 from DOA; 1 miller; and 6 from IRRI who attended the event. One of the event highlights was the sharing of farmers about the benefits and challenges in piloting the flatbed dryer (FBD). The FBD was installed by the IRRI Postharvest group and funded by the Group for Research and Technology Exchanges (GRET) and village farmers on October 2013, which the farmers’ group has already used in the last postharvest season.  GRET has in the meantime established an inventory storage system for the group which will complement the drying operation, enabling farmers to store high quality rice coming from the dryer until market prices are favorable for selling grains.

Martin Gummert, one the meeting facilitators, asks the Bogale LA group who wants to try using the flat bed dryer
 As a result of the meetings, the farmers identified next learning activities, i.e. farmers will produce good quality grains using postharvest technology, like the FBD, sell it to the miller partners, document how the crop is assessed, and see if the millers will give price incentive for quality.

The Learning Alliance is a platform to engage project stakeholders to share, learn from each other, and collaborate on providing solutions to produce better quality grains and link farmers to better markets in Myanmar.