Renewable Energy-powered Milk Cooler for Smallholder Dairy Farmers
In Uganda and many sub-Saharan countries’ dairy industries, the evening milk is either wasted or processed into low-value products because it is highly perishable and cannot be kept fresh until the next morning, when it is safe to travel (no access to electricity and night travel is unsafe). To save this post harvest loss, a “bottom of the economic pyramid” solution in a low capacity (15.5 liters), biogas-powered zeolite adsorption evaporative cooler has been developed and has its performance has been assessed under the target field conditions and to initiate the diffusion of the cooler innovation among smallholder dairy farmers of Western Uganda. The cooler successfully preserved the milk over 24 hour period, with an average temperature drop of 18oC and acceptable quality in terms of the Resazurin test scale. All the evening milk in the study was added to the cold chain. Although the rate of the cooler innovation diffusion was found consistent with other diffusion studies in rural settings, interviews of participants suggested that a larger capacity cooler (50 -100 liters) and on-farm regeneration with biogas will accelerate the rate of diffusion in terms of numbers of smallholders that adopt the technology. Developments of a larger capacity cooler as well as a demonstration/training/cooler fabrication facility in a peri-urban setting are in progress. A rental with option to buy distribution model has been conceptualized and product distribution will commence as soon as the infrastructure is all in place – in approximately another 12 months. This will mark the transition from project to a business activities.
To test a new milk cooling system with a pilot group of 50 small-scale farmers to keep milk fresh overnight so it can be safely transported to the market the next day. The cooling system combines vaccum and zeolite absorption cooling technology with a charcoal-powered regenerator. By reducing post-harvest losses, the project will increase dairy farmer incomes by at least 35 percent.
The project will take an existing technology developed to meet the needs of affluent European and Asian beer consumers (the CoolSystem beer cooler, originally developed in Germany) and field test a reengineered model to meet the needs of smallholder dairy farmers in Uganda.