Improved energy efficiency of farmers' cooperative litchi drying operation in Northern Thailand


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In 2007, Hmong farmers growing litchi in the mountainous region of Northern Thailand started to dry the fruit in response to its declining market price. However, the locally available dryer, although affordable and of a size appropriate for smallholder farmers' cooperatives, showed excessive gas consumption, and this, along with rising fuel costs, imposed a threat to the drying operation. The objective of this study was to test low-cost, easy-to-implement modifications to a locally available convection dryer, to improve its energy efficiency. Experiments were conducted in cooperation with a Hmong farmers' cooperative in Northern Thailand. Insulation of the air ducts and control of the air recirculation rate led to energy cost savings of US$2.45 per dryer-load. With the modifications required being simple, the investment needed was recovered after only approximately 20 loads, while the energy efficiency of the dryer increased from 33% to 39%.