Last week, there was the news that tomato farmers in Kenya’s Laikipia county were feeding tomatoes to the cows. The sad bit is that this is not new. It has happened before.
The reason is overproduction because farmers are all harvesting their crop at the same time. To cope with this surplus production, farmers need to think outside the box.
So how did they end up there? For a long time, farmers have been selling fresh fruits immediately after the harvest. This practice has left most farmers counting losses due to lack of market for this highly perishable produce. Ripe tomatoes can be stored at a temperature of 12oC for up to several days. Temperatures cooler than this will result in chilling injury, producing poor colors and off flavors.
Improper cooling makes tomato appear shrivelled, thus reducing their market value and consumer acceptability. Due to improper storage, there is a loss in fresh weight of about 10-15 percent.
Therefore farmers should invest in good storage facilities, to stabilise the supplies by carrying over the produce from periods of high production to periods of low production.
One of the options is to invest in a Zero Energy Cooling Chamber; it uses no electricity, yet it increases the shelf life and quality of tomatoes by keeping them in a cool environment. The chamber is easy to build and maintain making it suitable for small-scale farmers. The chamber has a double brick wall, and the space between the walls is filled with moist sand. The sand cools the chamber as the water evaporates. Farmers can store their fresh produce in crates inside the covered chambers, as the temperatures inside are low.
According to The Standart Media, the technology is inexpensive, efficient, and environmentally sustainable.