Ask the Experts

Saturday March 06 2021
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Adding value to banana, pumpkins, cassava

I am now looking for a more efficient dryer because the one I am currently using takes three to four days and can’t meet the demand of my customers, which is rapidly growing. I am a young entrepreneur with interest in food processing. I have been drying bananas, pumpkins, and cassava to make flour. Is there modern technology that can dry bananas sliced into very small slices together with their peels?

Farmer

Dear Farmer

There are more controlled methods of drying your produce. You can use an oven, or even a microwave. They will cost you slightly higher than sun drying but the outcome will be tremendous.

First of all you will be able to dry your produce under hygienic conditions away from any contamination compared to open sun drying. They will also ensure a longer shelf-life for your product due to reduction in spoilage micro-organisms.

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You will also be able to reduce the time of drying. Remember that not all days receive the same sunlight and, therefore, there is uncertainty in the number of days required to dry each of your produce. Dehydration generally requires low humidity, a source of low heat (49-68 °C) and air circulation. Other methods of drying apart from using the sun are the use of dehydrators, oven drying, microwave and air drying.

Air drying happens indoors and will not be suitable for your case. Dehydrators are the best in food drying because they have an in-built element for heat, a fan and vents for air circulation. Efficient dehydrators dry food uniformly and retain the quality. Oven driers will need to be set at 60°C with door opened at 2-4 inches with a fan near the opening for air circulation.

However, oven drying takes twice more the time used by dehydrators. Microwave drying is efficient and fast for small quantities of food. When using a microwave, the food need to be placed between two paper towels to retain the humidity.

The drying produce is then monitored after every 3-5 minutes until they are brittle. However, food dried using the oven usually tastes cooked rather than dried.

Carol Mutua a crop agronomist  

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Chickens with huge returns

Please advise me which chicken breeds have high economic returns. I have been keeping indigenous chickens but they feed a lot. So the project is expensive.

Simon

Dear Simon

The type of poultry enterprise to engage in will be determined by feasibility study, financial projection, business plan, poultry management, poultry niche, standard operating procedure, target market, and farmer’s interest.

Factors contributing to poultry farming being profitable include increasing demand for food (eggs and meat) as human population rises and more awareness on health implications of red meat.

There are several niches in poultry production including egg production (layers), meat production (broilers), chicken breeding (hatchery), poultry feed production, poultry equipment manufacturing, egg and meat processing, packaging and poultry marketing and consultancy.

Resources available will determine whether the farmer will venture into intensive, semi-intensive or extensive systems.

Poultry location, housing your birds, poultry equipment and appliances, feeding your birds, poor marketing, lack of support from the government, high start-up capital, outbreak of diseases, non-availability and affordability of vaccines, and adulteration and high cost of poultry food are some of the things that need to be sorted to ensure money ends in the farmer’s pocket.

When planning and consulting is properly done, any poultry enterprise earns the farmer good money.

Dennis Kigiri

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About pinkerton avocado variety

I am interested in growing avocado of the Pinkerton variety.

Anne

Dear Anne

Pinkerton avocado is a commercial variety that is grown in a number of countries, with its origin being South Florida. It has a generally thick skin that maintains the green colour when ripe and is easy to peel.

The variety does well in an altitude of 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level, with an average annual rainfall of 950mm, well-distributed throughout the year.

It requires well-drained soils with moderate moisture levels and a pH ranging from 5.0 to 6.5.

Sillus Oduor.

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