I am a young entrepreneur with interest in food processing. I have been drying bananas, pumpkins, and cassava to make flour.

I am now looking for a more efficient dryer because the one I am currently using takes three to four days and can’t meet the demand of my customers, which is rapidly growing.

Is there modern technology that can dry bananas sliced into very small slices together with their peels?

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Farmer

There are more controlled methods of drying your produce. You can use an oven, or even a microwave. They will cost you slightly higher than sun drying but the outcome will be tremendous.

First of all you will be able to dry your produce under hygienic conditions away from any contamination compared to open sun drying. They will also ensure a longer shelf-life for your product due to reduction in spoilage micro-organisms.

You will also be able to reduce the time of drying. Remember that not all days receive the same sunlight and, therefore, there is uncertainty in the number of days required to dry each of your produce.

Dehydration generally requires low humidity, a source of low heat (49-68oC) and air circulation. Other methods of drying apart from using the sun are the use of dehydrators, oven drying, microwave and air drying.

Air drying happens indoors and will not be suitable for your case. Dehydrators are the best in food drying because they have an in-built element for heat, a fan and vents for air circulation.

Efficient dehydrators dry food uniformly and retain the quality. Oven driers will need to be set at 60oC with door opened at 2-4 inches with a fan near the opening for air circulation.

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However, oven drying takes twice more the time used by dehydrators. Microwave drying is efficient and fast for small quantities of food. When using a microwave, the food need to be placed between two paper towels to retain the humidity.

The drying produce is then monitored after every 3-5 minutes until they are brittle. However, food dried using the oven usually tastes cooked rather than dried.

The above mentioned methods are better because time is saved. Besides, sun-dried foods are likely to grow moulds before they are not completely dry.

Joy Deborah Orwa, Department of Dairy Food Science and Technology, Egerton University

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