Inspirational ideas: Solar dryer for herbs to make farm more profitable
Farming / forestry competitiveness and diversification
In 2014 five herb producers joined forces in the organic herb farm ‘Under the Sun’, making them the biggest Portuguese exporter of aromatic and medicinal plants. To save energy costs for herb drying, Gonçalo Costa Martins, one of the farmers, cooperated with a local engineer. Together they created an innovative hybrid drying solar system.
“Due to the deep economic crisis in Portugal, we decided to join forces and start a farm in aromatic and medicinal plants. However, we need to address challenges, including competition from herb producers asking lower prices and from countries with lower wages”, says Gonçalo.
“In the beginning we had a problem drying our plants due to the high energy costs involved. I started thinking about less costly ways. That’s how the idea for Black Block came about.”
The idea is a hybrid solar drying system using both solar and electric energy. Herbs are dried in recycled containers, painted black, insulated with a new wall and covered by polycarbonate sheets. The hybrid containers use an auxiliary energy source and can reduce energy costs by up to 70%.
“The system was created by farmers and for farmers. We wanted to have a dryer that would lead to high quality, consistent and reliable results, so as to produce good quality dried herbs. We managed to finetune this system, so we could continue it as a business next to Under the Sun. So, what started as a solution for saving energy costs, turned into a new successful business.”
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