Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CoolBot Coolrooms: D-Lab Demo Site in Uganda

Anikua's pigeon peas from her
garden in Pajulu, Uganda
Refrigeration is key to the successful marketing of perishable items. The fresh produce and floriculture industries of the developing world depend on low temperatures to reduce water loss, slow the development and incidence of postharvest diseases, and limit responses to ethylene and other metabolic changes which reduce shelf-life.
Anikua's cabbage in Pajulu, Uganda
Temperature control is even more critical for the production of fresh produce in the developing world, where ambient temperatures often are above 30°C, resulting in deterioration rates more than 20 times those at 0°C (the proper storage temperature for many high value horticultural crops).
Quality can quickly decrease in fresh fruits and vegetables once they are harvested. If not carefully handled and stored properly then nutrient content is reduced along with shelf-life, or how long the product lasts before becoming inedible.  

Building storage "cooling" room
in Pajulu, Uganda
Economically, as much as 40-70% of fresh product is lost in the developing world due to post-harvest issues such as physical damage, disease, and improper handling. Temperature management is a key tool for reducing such loss of perishable food crops and maintaining nutritive quality.

However very few smallholder farmers have access to cooling or cool storage facilities, and even refrigerated transportation is a rarity. For resource-limited farmers in the developing world, cool-rooms and transportation systems employing mechanical refrigeration are economically and practically infeasible.

Demo of CoolBot System
In February 2010, the Horticulture Collaborative Research and Support Program (Hort CRSP) funded several “Pilot Projects” towards "reducing poverty, improving nutrition and health, and improving sustainability and profitability through horticulture." One of these one-year, ready to implement, and innovative projects to be tested in developing nations was the CoolBot Coolroom system. This system uses a well-insulated room and an intelligent thermostat device called the “CoolBot” (Store it Cold Ltd.) controlling a standard, wall-mounted air conditioning unit, tin order to create cheap and effective cold storage for small-scale, resource-poor farmers.

D-Lab student Ariana Rundquist
opens Coolbot storage room
Michael Reid, professor emeritus at UC Davis (UCD) University, is one of two Principle Investigators working from UCD with in-country collaborators in India, Honduras, and Uganda. Reach Your Destiny Consult was the on-the-ground partner in Uganda, and the in-country Principle Investigator (the representative from Reach Your Destiny Consult) is Gloria Androa, a former International Agricultural Development (IAD) graduate student at UCD. Ariana Rundquist, a current IAD graduate student and a D-lab student, was recruited as a Research Assistant for the project. These three members approached the D-lab at UC Davis in the Fall of 2010, hoping for an economic feasibility assessment of the implementation of the CoolBot Coolroom System in a small village of Arua District, Uganda.

Wrapping heater for temp
sensor of AC unit
Here are pictures of two demonstrative CoolBot Coolrooms, one built in 2010 here at the UCD student farm and one built in 2011 at Yabiavoko village, Ombokoro Parish in Manibe Sub-County, Arua district. 6 km from Arua town, which is 540 km from Kampala city.

--
Ariana Rundquist, D-Lab Student, International Agricultural Development Graduate Group
University of California in Davis

Demonstration coolroom awaiting insulation and roof in Uganda


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