Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
An article on the Business Daily Africa website describes how a new plastic bag from the agricultural technology firm Amiran is poised to resolve one of the most persistent problems afflicting Kenyan farmers, and a problem that causes them to lose billions of shillings every year.
The Kenyan Farmers suffer economic losses due to being unable to preserve the freshness of produce beginning immediately after it is harvested. As a result, they often are forced to discard spoiled fruits and vegetables or to sell those on the verge of spoiling to middlemen at a significant loss. Lack of transportation and refrigeration infrastructure is largely to blame, and this problem is common to farmers in many emerging economies around the world.
Omry Karplus, the field operations manager for Amiran Kenya, makes it clear that the value of the Active Bag his company offers is due to the nature of the plastics film. “It looks like any other polythene material, but this is no ordinary plastic bag. It is special, and in a way revolutionary, because it changes the way farmers store their produce and saves them money,” he says.
Polythene is a British word for polyethylene, and as Karplus makes clear, this is no ordinary polyethylene. The bags can preserve fresh produce for up to a month after harvest, he says, because the film controls exchange of gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ethylene through the bag walls. Too much or not enough of those gases, depending on which gas it is, accelerates spoilage.
Amiran put the bags through a series of tests prior to launching, and according to Karplus the company is confident that the bags provide optimal levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide and ethylene. And they do more than that.
Because different types of produce require different storage temperatures to retain flavor, freshness, and appearance, Amiran has made bags with different levels of porosity. The bags are available with capacities of 0.5 kg to 20 kg (1.1 lb to 44 lb) and cost as little as 48 Kenyan shillings ($0.57). Adding to their value, Active Bags can be reused up to four times.