Arne Pauwels, a graduate from the University of Antwerp, has come up with an affordable mobile storage chamber that could help fruit and vegetable growers in developing countries extend their products’ shelf-life without having to invest in expensive technology.
Based on designs conceived during his Masters in product design, Pauwels’ unit is called Wakati One and consists of a small tent used to create a humid micro-climate around harvested products, preventing them from drying out too soon.
Crucially, all that is required to make the chamber function is 200ml of water per week and energy from the attached solar panel. Using materials sourced locally, the units could apparently cost as little as €10.
“Most traditional technology either requires a power grid or massive amounts of water,” Pauwels explains. “With Wakati we are creating a concealed environment for fruits and vegetables that answers to their post-harvest needs and protects them from fungi growth. Thereby we create extra time, for the crops as well as for the people.”
In fact, the name Wakati means ‘time’ in Swahili, and time is indeed of the essence for farmers in places like Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, where the tent kits have been trialled over the past couple of years.
According to the UN, 45 per cent of all crops grown in developing countries never reach consumers and are wasted.
“This is something we simply can’t tolerate. Post-harvest losses are this high because there is no solution within reach to store the crops long enough to get them to the people,” says Pauwels.