Kitui Food Hub, located in Kitui, Kenya, will specialize in baby food (fruit juice) through products such as dried fruits, vegetables and legumes. Based on precision harvesting the products will be processed first by solar drying and then by juicing, extraction, fortification and packaging.
The activity of precision harvesting will develop, implement, and test smart monitoring and control systems aimed at optimizing and standardizing timing and procedure of harvesting of crops and fruits in order to minimize losses at harvest and preserve the quality of the products. The system will comprise and harmonize the following: remote sensing tools (e.g., drones and weather station, such as AWS, with agro-meteorological sensors), telecommunication at local level (ICTs including IoT), monitoring centre (with data analysis and evaluation technologies), and mobile apps for end users.
For processing, the aim of the solar drying will be to reduce moisture content to the acceptable levels and, in so doing, prolonging shelf-life of the raw materials, ingredients, and food products, while preserving their quality and preventing spoilage and waste. The developed solar air dryers will target different food raw materials and enable smallholder producers to treat their products through scalable dryers built with low-cost materials, which are simple to operate, and are energy efficient.
Suitable technologies for fruit juicing and extraction will be tested on local fruits (e.g., mangoes, pineapple, pomegranate, bananas). How to innovate traditional juicing technologies will also be focused on. The obtained fruit juices and target compounds from the by-products will be mixed with other ingredients to formulate and nutritionally enrich the novel foods (in this case, baby food) so as to optimize their production cost.
Bio-based packages that are able to preserve the functional and nutritional properties of the food products, reduce their contamination during storage (and transportation), and increase their marketability and attractiveness will be developed and tested. The availability of environmentally friendly, affordable, and optimal packaging materials, and technologies will be assessed, pre-selected, and tested at small scale for at least 4 relevant, specific food products. This is done so as to obtain high level quality maintenance during storage under different environmental conditions. Specifically, bio-based packaging materials will be assessed for suitability for packaging of baby food.