Small-scale vegetable growers often can only afford a traditional storage house, which has no remote temperature monitoring systems that manage cold storage of high-value crops. Good news recently came to farms in Vermont, USA: small-scale vegetable growers can now monitor storage conditions using their cellphones.
It’s estimated that 40 percent of all food produced in the US is wasted via so-called ‘post harvest losses’ that occur somewhere between farms and our homes. Farms usually store excess summer crops in storage houses for winter sales as temperature fluctuations can shorten farmers’ growing season. For years, growers would have to walk into coolers or drive long hours to other storage spots to check the temperature and humidity.
Researchers from the University of Vermont’s Extension Service knew that small-scale vegetable producers in the state cannot afford high-tech refrigeration so they developed a sensor system that farmers can install in their warehouses to monitor temperature and humidity. Farmers can install a remote thermostat technology app on their cellphones and can receive messages with updates about the room’s climate conditions every five minutes and get real-time visibility into their storage rooms without physically having to go there.
The system has drawn impressive outcomes with the University claiming that it reduced the rates of vegetables that would have been wasted or culled by 30 to 50 percent, adding about 10,000 USD in revenue to each farm (a total of nine farms participated in the trial run). One potato farmer who lost 20 tonne yields last growing season found it useful and cheap to install. Having a wireless internet connection is a prerequisite, meaning farmers wanting to install this cool system in their farms in rural areas might face connectivity challenges.