Mexico City, Apr 23 (EFE).- Mexican students at the Polytechnic University of Amozoc (Upam) are developing the prototype of a faster solar dryer to prolong the storage life of fruits and vegetables, the National Science and Technology Council (Conacyt) announced on Monday.
The invention – which does not pollute as much as other dryers – is being designed to increase the drying speed for food products and is outfitted with temperature, humidity and airflow sensors, as well as with software that monitors those data.
The dehydration or drying of field-grown agricultural products is a method commonly used to prolong their storage life via direct exposure to sunlight on plates made of metal or black plastic. But it is a very slow process and depends on weather conditions.
Dr. Erick Eduardo Huesca, a Upam energy engineering professor, said that his students are aiming to give the technology a domestic use as well as to help local crop producers.
“On the small scale, many producers cannot sell all their vegetables or fruits and one way to preserve them is to dehydrate them. That gives the product added value and also makes it easier to market it,” he said.
Harvest time in the state of Puebla is also the rainy season, which makes drying the products more difficult, and thus a better dehydration unit would be extremely beneficial for local producers.
“They dry (the products) in the open air, but if the chili peppers get wet they are lost. The idea is to support (the farmers) and for the product to keep its nutritional value,” Huesca said.
The prototype is rectangular and black in color with a glass front panel with sensors to measure the temperature.
It also has a drying chamber where the product is placed for dehydration, after being measured with a humidity gauge.
Huesca said that there is no environmental impact from the apparatus, adding that the system “is made of sustainable, cheap materials, and any small-scale producer can have a unit like this.”