Mexico: Solar food dryers in greenhouses

Scientists from the Institute of Renewable Energies (IER) of the UNAM proposed modifying the infrastructure of greenhouses so that they can be used as solar dryers for food, flowers, and medicinal plants.

The university students' method to take advantage of this type of space, 75 percent of which have been abandoned, consists of collecting and accumulating solar energy, which is versatile, as it can be used to dry products and heat crops.

In a statement from the UNAM, Isaac Pilatowsky, a researcher at the IER, said that the idea was to create a greenhouse where the air circulates, which can also be heated externally with radiation to be used inside the dehydration chamber.

One of its advantages is that its temperature can be controlled and the greenhouse can be cooled if necessary, "the idea is to create the adequate conditions to maintain the quality of the products using solar energy," he said.

He also said that by using a curtain system, which consists of flexible tarps, some areas could be closed to redirect the air to certain sections, thus creating drying tunnels quickly.

The goal is to take this technology to the field and adapt it to the requirements of each place, he added.

Each case must be studied individually because of variables, such as air quality, humidity, solar radiation influence, the product being harvested, and when it's being produced. The goal is that the greenhouses be used throughout the whole year.

So far, the experience is with fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants, and flowers. "The idea, however, is not only to dry them, but to preserve most of their properties," he stated.


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