Nakaseke Food Hub in Kapeeka, Uganda, will focus its farming on precision fertigation and harvesting. The main products will be fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, and primary and secondary processing will consist of solar drying and packaging.
For vegetables (leaf vegetables, tomatoes), smart irrigation/fertigation systems IoT-based will be developed and tested so as to monitor all relevant parameters (climate, soil moisture, water use, plant biomass and growth), and supply the crop with the necessary water in a timely manner and as spatially uniformly as possible. Digital platform – that is, monitoring centre and mobile apps – will be implemented and tested.
The activity of precision harvesting for vegetables (tomato) and fruits (mango) will develop, implement, and test smart monitoring and control systems aimed to optimize and standardize timing and procedure of harvesting of crops and fruits in order to minimize losses at harvest and preserve the quality of the products. For instance, previous work on postharvest losses of cereals in Uganda showed that farmers lose >10% of their harvest due to poor timing of harvesting and omissions (leaving of the crop in the garden during harvest). 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 air drying techniques will be to reduce moisture content to the acceptable levels and, in so doing, to prolong the 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 using scalable dryers built with low-cost materials, which are simple to operate, and are energy efficient.
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 at different environmental conditions.