Fish dehydrated with solar energy at Bao Beach, Kenya

Posted Monday 28 August 2017 by Lorin Symington.

Food dehydration is an important part of food security and solar thermal tech is the perfect energy source to power food dehydration. In partnership with World Vision Kenya, we have been introduced to the Bao Beach beach management unit, a cooperative that operates within a small fishing community of 300 people located on the shores of Lake Victoria, in the Western part of Kenya. People have come together to do business at Bao Beach. By cooperating, and being business-oriented they have more stability as they fish, dry and sell sardines (known as "omena" locally), Nile perch and tilapia.

The previous method: Woman turning the fish drying on the ground.

Fresh fish only last so long. Without refrigeration fish spoil relatively quickly and so instead, local fishers dry fish by spreading out the fish on nets on the ground. The sun and the wind eventually dry them. Sometimes they are eaten by birds, sometimes the dogs get at them, many flies are on it, the air only flows over the side facing up, so they must be turned often. It amounts to a considerable amount of work, which generally falls to the wife of the fisherman. It can take 2 days to dry the fish, especially if it is one of the two rainy seasons in this part of Kenya. If there is not enough sun, or it rains suddenly, the fish will spoil.

Lorin training the Bao Beach technicians how to prepare mirrors for mounting on the SOL5. Simple materials with careful assembling, can do amazing things.

We have teamed up with the Bao Beach community and equipped them with our Sol5 powered dehydrator. Lorin and Heikki trained 4 technicians from among the young men in the community on how to set up and maintain their solar concentrator. The SOL5 uses high heat, moderated by PV powered high airflow. The product being dehydrated is in an enclosure that prevents flies, dust, birds, dogs, etc., from spoiling the fish. We expect the SOL5 to improve the quality and hygiene of the dried fish, increasing the price on the open market, as well as reduce post harvest losses during the rainy season.

Lorin testing the SOL5 Dehydrator to determine how many kilos of fish fit per tray.

Now, we’re starting to get the first data from the communities and it is exciting to say the least. Unfortunately during the initial installation the concentrator was damaged, but it was recently repaired by our fabricators in nearby Kisumu and the initial reports are very promising. Very soon we’ll share footage of this new application of the SOL5. We’ll be evaluating the profitability of the fish drying value chain in collaboration with World Vision, as well as providing capacity building opportunities for stakeholders to adopt best practices.

Loading omena (sardines) into the SOL5 Dehydrator.

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