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LONDON: August 20, 2018. Zero-emissions engineering company Dearman has launched a two-year project aimed at reducing harvest waste in South Africa that costs the country US$6.0 billion a year – half of which is perishables.

Dearman says it plans to use its liquid nitrogen engine to develop a mobile pre-cooling system to cut the temperature of perishables at harvest and thus reduce spoilage.

UN FAO statsWorking with cold chain operator Transfig and Harvest Fresh, a family-owned food producer based in South Africa’s Gauteng province, Dearman will deploy a mobile, off-grid, zero-emissions system that enables farmers access affordable pre-cooling.

The company estimates that deploying 250 units throughout the country would save 350,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables wasted during post-harvest handling and storage. The solution would also save 328 million cubic metres of water, 29,000 hectares of land and boost farmer income by 12.0 percent.

“Small farmers in the country want an affordable pre-cooling system, but one that does the job cleanly,” commented Dearman head of New Applications Daniel Fennell. “The zero-emission system we are developing can offer a real alternative to polluting, expensive diesel systems and help to reduce post-harvest food loss.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), roughly one third of annual global human food production - some 1.3 billion tonnes - is wasted at a cost of US$680 billion in industrialized countries and US$310 billion in developing nations.

The FAO says fruit and vegetables, plus roots and tubers, have the highest wastage rates of any food at 40-50 percent of the total.

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).

The food lost in Africa could feed 300 million people and the FAO calculates that saving 25 percent of the current food loss globally would be enough to feed 870 million people.

“In developing countries food waste and losses occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques as well as storage and cooling facilities," according to the FAO.

“Strengthening the supply chain through the direct support of farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste,” it added.

The African fruit and vegetables pre-cooling market is estimated to be worth US$942 million. Funded by the UK Department for International Development, the Dearman project includes a six-month field trial in order to demonstrate the viability of wider commercial deployment across the continent.

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