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Can a bag change everything?
By Edona Dervisholli, Policy Intern
On May 6, the Alliance to End Hunger and GrainPro hosted an innovative panel discussion on Food Security, Post-Harvest Loss and Hermetic Storage. Ann Steensland, Senior Policy Associate of Two panels described the major components that can forestall harvest loss by utilizing new technology to create products that can increase food security. The Alliance to End Hunger is a coalition of organizations committed to working to end hunger across the globe and GrainPro, a ”not only for-profit” company that has generated a revolution in safe storage and drying of grains and seeds.
Phil Villers, President of GrainPro, shared his view on food security by explaining a product that GrainPro has successfully integrated in the farming process. An ultra-hermetic storage bag is a modern ‘green’ solution to safely store grains in an airtight environment. Ultra-hermetic storage is unique because it provides a low oxygen and high carbon dioxide environment, which kills living insects without pesticides. It has gas-tight storage facility, and of 25% prevents growth of mold producing aflatoxins that alleviates vulnerability to HIV and cancer. It prevents increase in free fatty acids while the product is storage and maintains the same level of moisture.
GrainPro shared many examples proving the need for such products. For instance, 10 percent of the Kenya maize crop had to be destroyed because of excessive aflatoxin levels in 2010. The demand for good storage products is growing, and as of today the GrainPro ultra-hermetic storage technology is used in more than 103 countries, as well as in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Similar to GrainPro products, the Purdue Improved Crop Storage bags have also increased income and improved food security of smallholder farmers, according to Dr. Dieodonne Baributsa, from Purdue University. The Purdue model includes the establishment of a full supply chain, in which farmers use the bags and establish a strong demand for production and sale of the PICS bags.There have been some 3.2 million bags sold between 2007 and 2013 to governments, private sector and the PICS project. What makes PICS so successful is the ease of use, good price for farmers, and ease of production. It is socially acceptable and available in rural areas and has a well-developed supply chain model.
PICS bags are made from plastic components, one outer polypropylene (PP) woven bag and two inner liners made of high density polyethylene. Question arise about what happens to PICS bags if they are no longer suitable to store grains, and issues of environmental concern. The PICS bags can be recycled and reused for other purposes. Some countries are adopting best practices to deal with such plastic material, and in Rwanda there is a legal framework allowing propylene bags such as PICS to be used, while banning plastic shopping bags. (Baributsa, 2014)
These low-cost, green technologies are great innovations for farmers who struggle to reduce the loss of products after harvest. GrainPro and Purdue are prime examples of how to create, test, and create sustainable supply chains that can alleviate post-harvest loss and increase food security.