| FOOD CHAIN No. 8 - March 1993 |
A Broader Choice... A Louder Voice
Appropriate technology development is an essential component of the development process, and of the project cycle within that process. Project implementation highlights the gaps and weaknesses; technology development fills the gaps, strengthens the weaknesses and so broadens the choice for the small producer. But it should be remembered that the small producer is only interested in a broader choice if it enables him or her to stay afloat in an increasingly difficult business environment.
The problems for the small producer have worsened over recent years as the consumer is buying a greater range of higher quality foodstuffs. This would be a good thing if the consumers were themselves demanding it Yet they are not; it is the large national and multinational companies driving for this change because they are most able to respond to it in terms of the high capital investment required. The small producers now find markets closing their doors on them. These realities make the work of developing more appropriate food processing technologies all the more necessary and challenging.
The Food Processing programme at Intermediate Technology (IT) has been successful in developing appropriate food processing technologies that are being used by small producers in many developing countries with the result of increased opportunities for income and employment. These include a drier, oil-press, grain mill, roaster, bottle capper and jar sealer. As well as 'hardware' a number of small-scale processes have also been developed which take advantage of existing small-scale equipment. These include a wide range of fruit and vegetable processing, rice processing, vinegar and crystallized fruit processing.
From its many years of experience the food processing programme has faced up to the realities of modern food processing and identified some gaps and weaknesses. One of the key areas is packaging and presentation. The first point of contact for the consumer is the package and with increasingly sophisticated technology, the humble polypropylene bag with a label fails to make an impact, especially to a first-time buyer.
The development of more appropriate materials for packaging is a highly specialized area but greater choice of low cost plastic forming operations and of filling techniques can be investigated. More sophisticated presentation alternatives are now more readily available because of the wider accessibility of the computer.
The other areas currently under consideration by IT include low cost vacuum systems for both processing and packaging, more appropriate sources of heat for drying operations, better designs of solar/biomass dryers and small scale yeast production.
Food Chain would be very interested to hear about your ideas for technology development. Perhaps we could work together to develop your idea?