For farmers in developing countries without refrigerators, a great deal of produce - and therefore profit - can be lost through spoilage. A new device seeks to tackle this problem by increasing the short-term storage time for fruit and veg. The Wakati stores produce in a sterilized microclimate.
The Wakati designers recognize that often there is no regular access to electricity in developing countries. Like the Buffalo Grid phone charger and the ROSI water filtration system, therefore, it uses a solar power system for its operation.
In addition to a 3 W solar panel, the device comprises a top-loading tent-like structure, in which up to 150 kg (330 lb) of produce can be stored, and a solar-powered ventilator. The ventilator gradually evaporates a weekly supply of 200 ml (6.7 fl oz) of water creating a humid environment within the tent.
Company founder Arne Pauwels explains that the humid environment created by the Wakati helps to reduce the extent to which crops dry out after being harvested. As a result, he says, the cells of the crops are kept intact and the acids and enzymes inside the cells that would otherwise begin to digest the crops are kept contained.
Unlike a refrigerator, the Wakati does not control temperature and, therefore, cannot store fruit and veg for long-term periods. Pauwels says, however, tests on the Wakati have shown that a one or two-day shelf-life in a hot climate can be increased to 10 days. This can increase the amount of time that produce can be stored in developing countries before sale, reducing the amount that goes to waste and maximizing the amount of profit that can be made by the grower.
The first batch of 100 Wakatis has already been supplied to Haiti, Uganda and Afghanistan and Pauwels says that the company is ready to go into full production at an initial cost of US$100 per unit (though it is hoped that increased production will drive that figure down).