Commercial crops are produced in large quantities in Nigeria, for the food industry and technical needs. These needs have increased the requirement for quality production as post-harvest losses in Nigeria are as high as 30-50%. The drying of crops is an important stage in the farming industry and also consumes a large amount of energy. Dried foods are stable under ambient conditions, easy to handle, possess extended storage life, and can easily be incorporated during food formulation and preparation. Drying is used as either a primary or secondary process for preservation.
Crops contain dry matter and water after harvestation. Water is essential for the growth of crops but excess moisture after crop maturity may result in storage related problems such as pests, insects, mould, and fungi which reduce the quality and market value of the crop. This is why the purpose of drying is to manage the temperature and moisture of the air around the crop to optimize its market value and quality.
The drying of crops can be divided into four categories:
1. Low-Temperature Drying - Uses unheated air or air heated up 8oC.
2. Medium Temperature Drying - Uses heated air up to 60oC
3. High-Temperature Drying - Uses heated air up to 82oC
4. Combination Drying - Uses both low and high temperatures to reduce the crop moisture content to an ideal storage level.
Drying involves the separation of water from crops made up of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and mineral salts. The removal of water occurs via evaporation. This is as a result of the partial pressure water vapour difference between the surface of the crop and the air. Thus, water molecules are transferred from the crops to the air. Basic drying concepts such as moisture content, dryer size & capacity, dryer selection criteria, stress cracks & breakage susceptibility, crop quality, and energy efficiency are considered before the designs of any dryer are considered.
At FIIRO we've designed an Automated Dryer for the drying of different crops. The desired drying conditions like temperature, relative humidity, time, etc. It can be preset, monitored, and controlled through any Wi-Fi-enabled device connected to the dryer. Real-time data can be analyzed, making the system suitable for research and production applications.