Enabling Successful Scaling of Postharvest Innovations

Enabling Successful Scaling of Postharvest Innovations

By Bradley Brinkley, Global Food Security Fellow, ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss

Recent experience has shown the importance of resilient food systems, and the essential role of postharvest management as a pathway to build resilience. Postharvest losses affect food availability, food security, and food safety all which impact smallholder farmers’ incomes and the environment.

A decade ago, the technical solutions to postharvest loss seemed to be widely understood, however, widespread adoption has remained a challenge. The Reducing Postharvest Loss: A Food Systems Approach webinar series hosted by the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss brought together three innovators from Bangladesh, Ghana, and the United States to discuss key solutions that have enabled adoption and scaling of the BAU-STR grain dryer, Soybean Innovation Lab multi-crop thresher and the GrainMate moisture meter. Below we highlight three key models that have enabled successful scaling of postharvest innovations:   

Power of multi-sectoral partnerships for scaling

Reducing postharvest losses requires collaborative multi-sectoral partnerships. Joint solutions such as public-private partnerships (PPP) aid in the development of sustainable agricultural solutions that is inclusive of smallholder farmers and can build food systems resilience long term (FAO 2016). Panelist Dr. Monjurul Alam from Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and the Director of the Postharvest Innovation Lab Bangladesh showcased the importance of PPPs in scaling the BAU-STR dryer.

Adapted from the STR dryer developed in Vietnam, the BAU-STR dryer is a low cost, user friendly, and energy-efficient dryer manufactured in Bangladesh. BAU successfully localized the design and production, reduced costs, and standardized implementation procedures. According to BAU research, the dryer minimizes losses and has the potential to save 1.3 million tons of paddy each year. They successfully scaled this technology by engaging key players in the public sector to establish a commitment of 50-70% government subsidies and guarantee the purchase of 5,000 dryers in Bangladesh. Moreover, BAU involved with the private sector for local manufacturing, distribution, and marketing. As Alam further explained, scaling new technologies in any agricultural sector can be challenging due to initial high investment, especially in geographies filled with smallholder farmers. With engagement and financing from the public and private sectors, however, access and scaling can be introduced to rural areas.   

Importance of gender responsiveness in technology scaling

Women smallholder farmers are responsible for multiple post-harvest activities such as threshing, drying, winnowing, storage, cleaning, processing, and marketing. For successful scaling, innovators need to consider barriers that both male and female smallholder farmers face in accessing, using and adopting technologies. Panelist Dr. Kerry Clark with the University of Missouri highlighted the example of the Soybean Innovation Lab Multi-Crop Thresher (MCT) that used innovative models to successfully scale with both male and female farmers.

The MCT increases threshing speeds by 80% (in comparison to manual threshing) and reduces postharvest losses to less than 2%. However, field training revealed that thresher service providers preferred threshing maize, a traditionally male crop, to soybean, thereby excluding women farmers from higher profits. Clark provided the example of how the Soybean Innovation Lab worked with 20 women’s Village Lending and Savings groups by providing them with an MCT each to explore the benefits and challenges of women-led threshing businesses. Research showed that women-led groups who shared join ownership of the MCT got better prices for their crops, had more cash on hand, and were able to run a profitable business. This example showed the importance of addressing gender constraints at every stage of a technology’s development to enable successful scaling.

Packaged solutions that address smallholder farmer’s needs

Smallholder farmers experience postharvest losses due to numerous interrelated factors. Speaker Isaac Sesi, entrepreneur and founder of Sesi Technologies and part of the Postharvest Loss Innovation Lab spoke of the need for holistic, field-level solutions that address farmers’ needs.

Sesi developed the GrainMate moisture meter, a low-cost technology that helps farmers accurately assess grain moisture levels prior to storage and reducing postharvest losses caused by excessive moisture content. However, Sesi Technologies found that presenting smallholder farmers with only a new technology, such as the moisture meter, was not enough for scaling. To increase adoption, they developed “Farmer Pack” to provide smallholder farmers with a suite of postharvest management solutions at an affordable cost. When a farmer purchases a GrainMate moisture meter, they get access to hermetic bags, grain drying and threshing services, warehouse storage, better market access, and proper training. This bundling of essential services and technology proved successful in scaling better postharvest management solutions among smallholder farmers.

In summary, developing new technologies is part of the solution, but understanding how to scale these technologies to reach more users is just as important. Working with the public and private sectors can provide farmers with better prices and access. At the same time, we need to be cognizant of gender-responsive scaling methods to ensure both men and women farmers benefit from mechanization. Finally, we need to constantly listen to farmers across the product development cycle to add value.

Bradley Brinkley is a senior in agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Global Food Security Fellow working with the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss.

The ADMI-sponsored webinar series commemorates the institute’s 10-year anniversary. To learn more about the “Reducing Postharvest Loss: A Food Systems Approach” webinar series and register for upcoming webinars on February 23 and March 24, visit www.reducingphl.eventbrite.com.

Listen to the recording of the first webinar here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhgldpDGVaQ

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