Agribyte: A Mobile Solar-powered milk chiller.
Milk farmers and traders can reduce food losses of spoilt milk in transit using an invention from Kenya. This logistics solution is a mobile solar-powered chilling system. You can have one mounted on a motorbike or a tuk-tuk. This is a cheap solution for producers and dairy cooperatives. It will help you with quality control, traceability, and better profits.
The innovation addresses the challenges of milk aggregation from scattered smallholder milk farmers in areas with poor transport linkage. The portable cooling tanks allow farmers and milk transporters to keep milk for a maximum of three days without going bad. You can have these transported at a low cost.
How the portable milk cooler invention works
The portable milk chillers comprise several parts. They use aluminium tanks to hold and keep the milk temperatures low. These are powered by solar energy that is tapped from solar panels. Other components of the system are a milk PH test kit, an automatic weighing scale, and a customized dairy cooperative management system. It uses the latter for record-keeping.
This invention is patented by Savanna Circuit, an innovation and technology company. The Kenya-based company has piloted this idea with a dairy cooperative in West Pokot County.
According to Lemtukei the company’s Co-founder; “The system entirely runs on the 15w (100 litres chiller) and 80w (800 litres chiller) panels because of battery pack segmentation.”
He adds that “the cooler can keep milk cool at the recommended temperature of four degrees Celsius while on transit to the main cooling plant.” According to him, “the cooler attains that (4 degrees) within an hour depending on the ambient heat”.
The Savanna circuit produces two types of milk chillers; a mini cooler with a capacity of 100 litres. You can attach this on back of a motorbike (bodaboda). It can preserve milk for up to 28 hours. They mount the larger chillers of 800 litres on a three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) or a donkey cart. These can keep your milk fresh for 72 hours.
The innovators are commercializing the idea. They intended to start full production from January 2020.
There is a huge potential for adoption of this innovation in Kenya and other African countries. Some of them include;
The portable chillers will help Milk traders and producers to cut huge losses they suffer each year in spoilt milk while on transit. This innovation is a game-changer in collecting and delivering milk volumes from a pool of small-scale dairy farmers. This will ensure that they deliver the perishable product while still fresh to milk hubs for preservation and processing.
This solution will assist dairy farmers to commercialize their dairy farming. In Kenya, small-scale farmers dominate the sector, they produce around 80% of the country’s milk supply of over 6.6 billion litters. However, they face key challenges that have condemned most to subsistence production. These include Poor storage and transport facilities. Much of their milk usually goes to waste during the rainy season when milk production is at its peak in areas with poor roads.
The innovation will help milk players to adhere and comply with set out regulations. Informal milk traders who control over 80% of milk sales to ultimate consumers prefer marketing raw milk using plastic containers to transport milk. This is against the Kenya dairy board’s regulation, which calls for use of aluminium tanks.
Pros and cons of the solar-powered milk chillers
Adopter of these chillers will enjoy cheaper costs. Solar energy powers the cooler, making it zero -cost in terms of energy bills. They use locally available resources to fabricate making it cheaper and affordable to make and buy. Transporting milk on motorcycles, tricycles and donkey carts is cheaper than using tractors and motor vehicles.
On the downside, the capacity of the mobile coolers is relatively low (100 litres chiller for motorbikes and 800 litres chiller for a tricycle.) Making it unfavourable for medium and large milk producers with more milk.
The dairy sector in Kenya
Kenya is a leading consumer of milk in Sub-Saharan Africa with a per capita consumption of over121 litres per year.
The country’s total milk production was 6.6 billion litres of milk in 2019. This was 5.3 per cent increase from 6.3 billion litres recorded in 2018 according to the Economic Survey 2020. It further revealed that quantities of milk and cream processed increased by 5.0 per cent from 468.4 million litres in 2018 to 491.8 million litres in 2019.
The portable solar-powered milk coolers will help in preserving milk quality on transport to milk processors. This will serve as a driver in promoting production and processing of milk in the region.