Bright ideas 2

An exciting highlight of the 2010 BYEE conference was the launch of the Bayer Young Environmental Leader Award to encourage environmental projects that demonstrate originality, potential impact and sustainability. Each participating country nominated an Envoy to present a project to a panel of judges, who awarded four projects with special support from Bayer.

Vaibhav Tidke, India

© M. Rennertz Bayer

© M. Rennertz Bayer

Since 2007, I’ve worked on Solar Drying, an initiative to develop a technology that will improve the economic condition of Indian farmers.

Much of the produce farmers harvest – fruit, vegetables and marine products – is highly perishable. The lack of power supply in rural areas means that there are no processing or storage facilities, leading to a 30 per cent loss of food. Most produce is seasonal, too, so gluts push down the market value. These factors help trap people in poverty.

But what if farmers had a way to process fresh food on site without electricity? My professor asked me to look at the technologies available, and solar proved a good option: we developed a simple, easy-to-operate technology for dehydration based on polyurethane and metal. Microorganisms cannot survive in dehydrated food. It can be more easily stored and transported, and provide an off-season income. And even taking into account the cost of production, the profit margin of dehydrated food is high: dehydrating a kilo of onions costs 50 rupees, but the market value is 100 rupees.

We’ve already produced demonstration units, and the next step is training the farmers. I have also started a social enterprise, Science for Society, helping village farmers become entrepreneurs, and we’re working on developing new products for dehydrated produce, such as powdered soup.

Solar Drying has the support of the Indian Government and won an award from UNESCO, but we need materials to produce more units, a testing facility to analyse dehydrated food, and farmer training. There’s still a long way to go.

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