Ashden Winners

S4S Technologies / Solar drying cuts food waste and supports women entrepreneurs

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Supported by the Waterloo Foundation
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Without access to processing or storage technologies, small-holder farmers in Maharashtra, India have a narrow window in which to sell their crops while they are still fresh.

They are often forced to discount produce heavily towards the end of the day. This keep farmers in cycles of poverty, and post-harvest wastage is a huge problem. These farmers do not just lack access to technology, but also to reliable markets to sell their produce.

Earnings for agricultural entrepreneurs can be up to R10,000 (approx. £100) per month during drying season.

2,760 dryers installed, including 262 under buy-back programme.

S4S is working with over 2,700 women farmers.

"“When I got associated with S4S, since then I feel I can do anything. My self-confidence has increased. I have now sent my younger daughter to study and my elder daughter got married.” "

Ms. Padul, Farmer and Agricultural Entrepreneur

S4S Technologies deploys its own patented solar conduction dryer, suitable for dehydrating a wide range of harvested crops, including fruit, vegetables, grains, and spices. This increases shelf-life by about six months. The dryer can be used without electricity and with minimal operating costs.

Working with government and NGO partners, the company has installed dryers in farming communities in Maharashtra. Under its ‘buy-back’ mechanism, S4S Technologies buys suitable crops from local farmers and trains agricultural entrepreneurs, usually landless women farmers, to dry them.

S4S then aggregates the dried produce, does secondary processing at its own factory, and sells the final product to the food and beverage industry, consumer goods companies, distributors, hotels, and restaurants. In this way, S4S technologies eliminates waste, acts as a guaranteed buyer, and enables farmers to create a higher-value product.

Following the completion of a successful pilot, S4S is now installing the dryers directly to agricultural entrepreneurs, with the support of a leading Microfinance Institution in India.

What’s the impact on customers/beneficiaries? 

S4S works with local NGOs, already deeply embedded in the community, to identify, train, and support agricultural entrepreneurs, boosting their business and technical skills. Entrepreneurs can earn a meaningful amount of money and it is often the first time they have had their own source of income. This has led to improvements in quality of life, empowerment and children’s education. In a small number of cases, solar conduction dryers replace coal or electric dryers, making an important CO2 saving.

The dryers create end products of the highest standards, meaning S4S is able to sell into major food industry customers and guarantee income for farmers and drying entrepreneurs. The dryer cuts processing time by up to 40% compared to other dryers. It is half the cost of equivalent solar dryers when measured by output.

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