Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bengaluru.
Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bengaluru.File photo| EPS

A win-all veg/fruit dehydration tech waiting to be popularised

The bonus off-shoot is the opportunity for the women to thrive.

A simple win-win technology is waiting to be popularised across the country. Back in the 1980s, Prof Shridhar Sadashiv Lokras developed fruit and vegetable dryers at a centre which was then called Application of Science & Technology for Rural Areas (ASTRA) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) (it is called Centre for Sustainable Technologies now). These dryers dehydrate the produce, which can then be reduced to a powdered form and packaged in cellophane sheets and sold over counters, with shelf-lives ranging between six months to a year at room temperatures — without compromising the nutritional value of the produce or its taste/flavour.

The implication of this win-win technology is this: It can protect the produce for the farmers with extended longevity of the fruits and vegetables in the powdered form, and also allow their womenfolk to set up small enterprises wherein they can run the dryers themselves and directly sell the produce in powdered form over the counter. It not just saves the produce from price fluctuations but also provides a robust opportunity for women to generate employment by setting up small units for woperating these dryers and selling the produce.

A non-profit organisation, Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE), now under the Department of Science & Technology’s Science for Equity Empowerment & Development (SEED) division, took the technology and held several workshops with farmers across the country. But the vegetable/fruit dehydration technology has survived only in pockets in the south and central parts of India. This technology is like an armour protecting the farming community from being vulnerable, and therefore screaming for an adequately high minimum sale price to protect their livelihood. The bonus off-shoot is the opportunity for the  women to thrive.

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