DIY Solar Water Heater

a DIY system for the lowland tropics...and places a bit cooler

solar hot water systemThe "re-done" solar hot water system. The original system was put together many years ago using some broken panels and an old tank from a different supplier. It all worked well, better and longer than expected, but the tank finally gave way. Preferring a DIY solution, we looked around for possible alternative tanks. Surplus 200L plastic and steel drums from local food processors seemed the best solution.

This meant a change from the commercial static "sealed/pressurised" tank to an open tank supply. ( A sealed tank requires a pressure release valve) The most efficient approach was to use the tank as a water bath for a copper coil heat exchanger. These tanks are not lined to be suitable for human consumption, so the heat exchanger approach ensured no contamination from the tank, or microbial growth in an inadequately heated static tank.

We had tested the approach with an old 200L fuel drum - it worked well, but the old drum rusted quickly. So...the next question was whether the 200L plastic drums would survive as a hot water bath. We expected them to be OK due to the high temperatures used in their manufacture, but tested anyway by boiling a piece of the drum. Reassured, we went ahead.

We also acquired a 200L steel drum from the same food processor. The steel drum was slightly taller than a standard 200L fuel drum and worked perfectly as an external skin to protect the plastic drum and insulation... just needs a nice looking lid!

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Implementing Standards for Fresh Produce Marketing in PNG

mixed veges

The fresh produce market demands quality and will make or break a supplier on what they can deliver.  PNG growers produce quality vegetables, but, sadly,  also have quite a share of more mediocre product.. How well the produce is regarded depends very much on who you are talking to, their perceptions, and especially what their experience is with higher quality produce.  These qualitative assessments make it quite hard to get an accurate picture and get any messages for improvement back down the line.

Fresh produce quality standards for many types of produce are well documented by several agricultural, health and trade organisations, see UNECE , CODEX, and USDA . Largely though, these stop short of linking the standards to practical measures needed to achieve the standards.

A set of quality standards backed by the methodologies to deliver on these will guide suppliers in growing, not only their produce but also their market share and profits. should this work?

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Successful Vege Marketing

Fresh carrots
Organised fresh produce marketing, especially vegetable marketing has had mixed, mostly less satisfying, results in PNG and throughout the South Pacific Islands.

Are we asking the right questions? Organisations are busy creating cooperatives, marketing systems, infrastructure, value chain systems .... but... many questions can be asked .

To what extent are these 'projects' addressing the relevant issues? 

What worked in the past ? why?  who were the players?

What levels of support have worked previously and are anticipated as necessary?

What are the assumptions?  How do we measure success?

So ... we have a value chain analysis and set up a project to deliver on the model .... but how to make it work ... we could go on and on


Lets start at the beginning and try and make sense of an approach ....

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Where is the market?

PLB Resistant clone
When we talk to farmers growing food in PNG, many will tell us they can grow produce, but "maket we?" or translated, "where is the market?". This is a genuine concern, compounded particularly by remoteness, competition from imports,  transport difficulties, poor infrastructure, and a rapidly changing supply and demand situation for many higher value food products. Farmers, technical advisers, and policy makers can make a difference with analysis and a positive approach.

So... what can farmers and other stakeholders do to improve their situation?  .... that is the challenge which can be addressed with some innovative thinking and action ...

Staple foods including sweet potato, taro, banana, cassava, yam, sago, rice, and wheat based foods make up the largest market component of the food sector. Currently a significant proportion of these are imported in the form of rice and wheat based products. While the subsistence consumption and informal marketing of the traditional staples is substantial, there is scope for major inroads into the market share of the imported alternatives.

How significant is the market share taken by imports? The stated 2013 production of 200,000 tonnes of rice, almost all imported,  by one of the major PNG importer / processors would have a retail value of around K600-700 million. This is significant by any standard. When we add in the value from other rice importers and wheat and other grain products for both human and livestock feed, it certainly shows a picture of "what could be" for PNG farmers. There is a whole scenario here which can be quite easily modelled to show the benefits and flow-on effects.

There is no need to ban imports but rather, look at why traditional foods have such a small market share ... plan... and set some targets .. the important fact is that there is a huge market for PNG farmers.... food for thought?


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