​Affordable natural product reduces fruit losses, increases incomes

Keeping fruit fresh longer 

Reducing spoilage from perishable fruits is a global challenge. In the developing world, the problem is compounded due to a lack of cold storage facilities and marketing infrastructure. In India and Sri Lanka alone, post-harvest losses for mangoes are up to 40 % annually (estimated at more than CA$800 million a year). Spoilage also disrupts commodity prices: farmers need to sell bumper crops quickly, driving prices down because of oversupply. 

Delaying ripening and reducing fruit losses has the potential to increase the incomes of nearly one-third of the population in these countries—the majority of whom are small-scale farmers. It would also encourage higher fruit consumption in regions where only half the recommended levels of fruit are consumed.

A safe and green solution

Patents are pending for an innovative technique that uses nanotechnology to extend and optimize the use of hexanal to keep fruits fresh and firm longer. Initial research in India and Sri Lanka showed that treated fruits stayed on trees up to two weeks longer, stored up to four weeks longer, and improved fruit quality—all of which boosted farmer revenues by 15% (CA$100 per hectare).

A team of 35 men and women researchers is working with academic and industry leaders to develop nine easy-to-use commercial products, including hexanal sprays and dips for pre- and post-harvest use, and wax coatings. They are also working on smart packaging systems using nanotechnology to incorporate hexanal into packing materials made from banana stems and other agriculture waste.

Field trials will be conducted in five countries (India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, and Trinidad and Tobago) to test these applications on mangoes, bananas, oranges, and papayas. Field trials will also be conducted on nectarines and peaches in Southern Ontario—one of Canada’s most important fruit-growing regions.

Expected outcomes

  • Refine and scale up nine hexanal-based technologies
  • Develop commercial agreements with small and medium packaging companies
  • Improve economic returns for farmers and increase access to markets
  • Improve the nutritional security of participating farmers
  • Create new economic opportunities for women farmers engaged in post-harvest operations and processed fruit products (e.g. mango bars)

Project ID

107847

Project status

Active

Start Date

Monday, December 1, 2014

End Date

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Duration

40 months

IDRC Officer

Tiessen Kevin

Total funding

CA$ 4,208,446

Country(s)

Central Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago

Project Leader

Dr. Jayasankar Subramanian

Institution

University of Guelph

Institution Website

http://www.uoguelph.ca

Project Leader

Dr. Kizhaeral Sevathapandian Subramanian

Institution

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University

Institution Website

http://www.tnau.ac.in/

Project Leader

Sri Lanka

Institution

Industrial Technology Institute

Institution Website

http://iti.lk/en/