Evaporative Cooling for Vegetable Preservation

Two examples of an evaporative cooling device for vegetable storage and preservation. Left: clay pot cooler. Right a brick evaporative cooling chamber.
Two examples of an evaporative cooling device for vegetable storage and preservation. Left: clay pot cooler. Right a brick evaporative cooling chamber.

Evaporative cooling devices have promise for helping small-scale farmers, market vendors, and families to store and preserve vegetables.

 

Practical and affordable storage technologies have the potential to prevent food loss, strengthen the perishable food supply chain, and create opportunities for additional income generation. Evaporative cooling devices are simple and inexpensive ways to keep vegetables fresh without the use of electricity. These devices function according to a basic principle called “evaporative cooling,” where the evaporation of water from a surface removes heat, creating a cooling effect. 

Evaporative cooling can improve vegetable storage shelf life by providing a stable storage environment with low temperature and high humidity, which reduces the rate of respiration and water loss and spoilage in most vegetables. The improved storage environment can have positive impacts including reduced post-harvest losses, less time spent traveling to the market, monetary savings, and improved nutrition.

D-Lab's approach and work

D-Lab has identified the following five key areas where increased efforts can increase the effective production, dissemination, and usage of evaporative cooling technologies: performance and design research, suitability scoping, developing scalable dissemination strategies, user behavior and impact research, and developing a community of practice.

Our current projects include:

 


Resources and Reports

An illustrated guide covering the fundamentals of how evaporative cooling works, the importance of proper fruit and vegetable storage, and best practices for assembling and using clay pot coolers. The guide is available in French and English and can be printed to form a booklet.  
 
MIT D-Lab and the World Vegetable Center published a research report evaluating technologies designed to improve the storage of vegetables using evaporative cooling. The methodologies used included interviews with users of the cooling and storage technologies, interviews with stakeholders along the vegetable supply chain, and sensors to monitor product performance parameters.
 
Evaporative Cooling for Improved Vegetable and Fruit Storage in Rwanda and Burkina Faso
MIT D-Lab and Agribusiness Associates conducted a study of evaporative cooling devices in Rwanda and Burkina Faso, as part of a Feed the Future program run by UC Davis' Horticulture Innovation Lab. The results of this research provided insights into the impact of device design and weather conditions on performance, as well as providing recommendations for dissemination of evaporative cooling devices. 

Contact

Eric Verploegen, MIT D-Lab Research Engineer