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Should Sun Drying be Rejected as a Food Unit Operation

Papers describing food drying techniques normally list the obvious contamination risks of drying in the open air as a major disadvantage and and based on this dismiss its application. However, the large volumes of food that are sun dried every year and the savings in energy and capital bely this quickly reached conclusion.

Searching the literature and regulations doesn’t give any guidance on the advisability of establishing a new sun drying business.

However, the two videos below show the large scale use of sun drying and the associated technologies applied at Cecilia’s Farm, near Prince Alfred in South Africa.

It seems that the critical point about the sun dried business they run, is that all fruit is washed before further processing and or packaging. Arguably this makes it comparable to fruit which is often not peeled, packaged salad and leafy vegetables. These are grown in the same environment and simply washed before eating.

The massive advantage of sun and to a lesser extent solar drying is that they produce shelf stable foods with minimal environmental impact and low processing and packaging costs.

Small Scale Popcorn Equipment

Here is a business that can be set up with quality equipment at an affordable cost.

This is a manual oil kettle based popping plant which can produce 55 kg/h from the two poppers. More poppers can be combined with a larger sifting and cooling table. Poppers can also be combined in automated units.

please note this is not a recommendation, only a sharing of information

Real Good Cheese and Dairy Information

The website of Dairy Science and Food Technology, an information and consultancy service for the food industry, provides useful and applicable information, calculators and reports which are surely of great use to the dairy processor. 

 Science and technology of milk and dairy products

click the image to access the website

The website was established by Dr Michael Mullan who is CEO of the Dairy Science and Food Technology consultancy.

Originally the site was intended as a project aimed at exploring the use of the Internet as a means of communicating with students. Over the years the site has grown and contributions are now invited from the wider scientific community and industry.

DSFT gets around a million ‘hits’ a year and there are hundreds of links back to the site.

The content of the site is illustrated by the navigation menu which includes topics like Cheese Yield, Food Models, Lactic Bacteriophages, Calculators, Links, Packaging and Labelling, Writing Tools, Thermal Processing, Ice Cream and Probiotics.

The nature of information is illustrated by the screen grab below from the Cheese Quality page.

Cheese yield

click the image to access the website

To me this kind of information on the INTERNET is what we need to access, not the generic marketing type information that abounds. Please share the information you use by commenting on this page. 

A Collection of Sorghum & Millet Information

If you need to get to know about Sorghum or Millet or want to get some of developments, this conference publication could be very useful.

Website presenting papers of the Afripro 2003 Conference

Unfortunately this conference is now 10 years old so doesn’t present the very latest state of the industry, but does contain two good reviews which are always relevant and some of the science of the time around food products, nutrition, plant breeding, sorghum based polymers and consumer preferences.

With international researchers like Professors Belton, Rooney and Taylor one can rest assured that the standard and focus of the work was of the highest standard. The web site presents a wide range of papers as well as the questions arising and the way forward through focus group and a prioritised list of research needs.

This conference was the output of a development funded project, so has no direct project follow up. However, there has surely been more work in the technology areas identified and maybe there were activities in ideas/groups born from the conference. I have not been able to find a collection of this type of information and would be interested to hear about your experiences and share further information here.

 

Absolute Fundamentals of Food Processing

This is a very unassuming document that came up when I searched on Food Processing Method.

Simple Introduction to Food Processing

click image to download document

It is simply 23 pages of points which were apparently prepared for a lecture or presentation – no images no fancy transitions, just the facts.

It starts off with the seven reasons why we process foods – something I guess we often forget when we are focussing on production and profits.

The points lead into ho we go about achieving the effect we are looking for and often why it works. This leads into simple statements on the Unit Operations required and again the principles of their operation.

if you are new to Food Processing, lots of this will be revealing and useful. If you know Food Processing it will remind you of things you knew but maybe forgot.

 

Food Product Innovation

This is another of the many manuals by FAO. This one discusses product development, although in a someone theoretical way.

click the image to visit the web page

The manual is broad, covering the following topics:

There is a lot of good information in here although for my liking its a bit theoretical and maybe it could do with some more interesting case studies.

It is, however, worth downloading and reading. It is 35 pages and was published in 2006 so is up to date and comprehensive.

Commercialising Cactus Pears – Free Online Information

If your community has large areas of cultivated cactus pears or if it is a good climate for cactus pears but little is grown, this manual could be of real value to you.

Commercialising Cactus Pears - Free Online Information

click image to visit site

This 150 page manual with 13 pages of reference, will surely give you all you need to know about the utilisation of cactus pear. You can then build your business by integrating this information with you knowledge of your community using you entrepreneurial skills.

A quick scan through the chapters of the manual illustrates the breadth and detail of the information.

Chapters of   /http://www.fao.org/docrep/019/a0534e/a0534e.pdfCommercialising Cactus Pears

The manual is available for free download, however, if you have problems please email me and I will make sure you get a copy.

High Pressure Processing

I have posted information on High Pressure Processing (HPP) before covering the process, linking to a factsheet and describing a product. HPP is a relatively new process that has advantages in the consumer preference for freshness and health that have been developing recently.

 

Food safety and quality drive demand for high pressure processing

click image to visit site

 

This article gives a few of the major points found in a recent market investigation.

  • The USA is the leading market for HPP products
  • The East, although an attractive market, has certain constraints based on consumer habits
  • Equipment sales are projected to reach $600 million by 2018
  • Product sales are expected to reach 2,2 billion in the same year
  • Beverages, ready to eat meals, raw proteins and raw pet food have been the successful products to date.

Is this the next big thing in African Food Processing? – I doubt it is likely to become a widely used technology. We still need to catch up with more standard capital intensive technologies as our middle class develops and demands more quality.

However, where we are developing new markets for the indigenous plants of Africa, there is surely an opportunity for HPP to retain flavours and beneficial chemicals tahtt will appeal to wealthy consumers.

Herbs, Spices and Essential Oils Manual – Free Online Information

This is a really impressive manual published by UNIDO.

Cover of the Herbs, Spices and Essential Oils Manual

click image to visit site

The manual covers the following subjects with the focus being on the post production processes used including a very informative section on essential oils.

  • Major spice crops in world trade
  • Economic Impact and Trade
  • Products
  • Post-Production
  • Operations Losses
  • Pest control 
  • Economic and Social Considerations

Food Processors are well equiped with knowledge and equipment that could be adapted to the production of herbs, spices or essential oils. They, therefore, have an opportunity to consider changing or expanding their business.

New Milk Processing Technology For Rural Small Scale Farmers

Small scale farmers in rural areas with a a few cows can easily produce more milk than their family consumes, opening the opportunity to earn income by selling milk. However climate, lack of reliable energy and long distances make this an unreliable business. Introducing standard fresh milk handling technology does not work because of the costs are too high, the quantities too low and energy too unreliable. Other solutions such as increasing shelf life with fermented products and introducing the Lactoperoxidase System have there place but there is real demand for fresh milk.

This new system being introduced by Promethean Power could change this.

Chilling Milk Directly From the Cow for India s Dairy Farmers Modern Farmer

click the image to open an online story

This is a mechanically simple system that is powered by local electrical supply which does not need to be consistent or reliable. Whenever electricity is available it is used to “charge” a thermal storage system, the system is then used to cool milk whenever it is available.

The thermal storage system consists of a cylindrical stainless steel tank, containing an unspecified phase change chemical in a heat transfer fluid. When electricity is available it is used to refrigerate the tank, freezing the chemical which absorbs large quantities of energy as it changes phase.

The simplicity of the system lies in the design of what they have termed the Rapid Milk Chiller. The milk is distributed on the top of the stainless steel tank, it flows over the total surface of the tank and is thereby cooled quickly. With gravity transferring the milk there are no pumps, pipes and controls which would complicate maintenance, be difficult to clean and require electricity.

There is also the potential to use any other alternative energy source e.g. solar, wind, biogas and biomass which can be converted into electricity.  

I like the idea and look forward to hearing about how it works out in practice.