With dung from three dairy cows, a farmer can now extend shelf-life of their milk for more than 10 hours with a biogas-powered chiller, allowing for more time that milk will remain fresh while awaiting marketing.
The SimGas Milking Chiller uses biogas energy from organic matter like cow dung to reduce the temperature of the produce to between 4?C and 6?C within four hours.
Low temperatures reduce micro-organisms activity, therefore, keeping the milk fresh for long.
Dr Ryan Shelby of USAID’s Powering Agriculture says the kit can comfortably be fueled by gas generated by three dairy cows to refrigerate 10 litres of milk for 14 hours.
SimGas Milking Chiller is particularly helpful to farmers who cannot dispose of milk in the evening.
“The chiller reduces the temperature of milk from 37 degrees Celcius to less than 6 dgrees Celcius. This is sufficient in boosting marketing time for farmers especially when they want to sell the evening produce the following morning,” Dr Shelby says.
Milk is highly perishable. Farmers lose more than 30 per cent of their produce when there is no ready market.
Farmers in regions like Rift Valley and central pour down the milk when in plenty and the market cannot absorb the excess. Poor hygiene accelerates the rate of going bad. These among other causes lead to massive losses to farmers.
Some crude farmers and dealers resort to adding hydrogen peroxide to extend freshness to meet freshness until the milk reaches urban markets like Nairobi.
This is particularly dangerous because addition of the preservative is not monitored.
Kenya Dairy Board says more than 70 per cent of between 100,000 litres and 200,000 litres of raw milk transported to Nairobi daily is locally ‘treated’ with this chemical for preservation.
But the SimGas Milking Chiller gives hope to farmers, who will have more time to sell their milk as well as convert cow dung into energy for refrigeration and cooking.
A maximum of one mitre cubic gas is required to power the chiller for an entire day while the excess can be used in cooking.
One litre of milk in Kenya is sold at about sh60.
Dr Shelby, who is the program manager for Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development, says a farmer would cumulatively save about Sh800 per day with this biogas.
A farmer requires Sh50,000 for installation of the biogas and the chiller. The equipment is sold by SimGas in Kenya.