Global Agriculture Innovation Forum: Managing Post Harvest Losses: PICS Case Study - July 27, 2021
[MUSIC] Hello, and welcome to the global agriculture innovation forum. I'm Gerald Shively, associate dean and director of international programs in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. Your host for this year-long series of forum events. On behalf of the organizing committee, our advisory board and everyone working to make this this series of events possible, I'd like to welcome you. I'd also like to thank USDA and the Foreign Agricultural Service for its continued support of forum events.
This year long series of events is exploring the frontier of agricultural innovations, with a view to feeding the world sustainably. Previous sessions in the series included presentations, and moderated discussions with numerous scientists and global thought leaders. Those recorded presentations are now available via the forum website along with links to a range of curated resources related to session topics, I invite you to visit the forum website, and look at those resources. Today's presentations highlight the Purdue improved crop storage project that's known worldwide by its acronym PICS. To introduce the session and our presenters, I'd like to welcome our moderator, Dr. Jake Ricker Gilbert, Professor of Agricultural Economics at
Purdue University and director of the USAID feed the future innovation lab for food processing and post harvest handling. Please enjoy the program, and please stay for the live question and answer session that will follow the presentations. Enjoy the program. >> Good day, everyone. My name is Jacob Ricker Gilbert, as Dr.
Shively introduced, I'll be your moderator for this session. I'm excited to be here to talk about this exciting work that Purdue and our partners have done over the past years related to post harvest and the pigs bag. So allow me to share my screen, and I'll give you a brief introduction to the session. So we at Purdue have been working on post harvest issues for a number of years, and I just want to highlight some of our a couple of our sponsors on this important work, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development. Let me start by noting that the challenges associated with increasing staple crop production around the world, particularly in Africa, for small scale smallholder farmers are large and should not be ignored.
But neither should the post harvest challenges that come along after the crop is grown and harvested. And when we talk about post harvest, we're talking about everything from when the crop is fully matured in the field and harvested to when it reaches the consumers form. So those post harvest challenges are extremely important, and let me just highlight a couple of them that we've been working on. The graph at the left shows the price seasonality challenge, and this is the price change for maize in 2015 and 2016 in Mbeya, Tanzania in the Southern Highlands. And you can see how price bottoms out for maize at harvest in June, but then goes significantly higher throughout the rest of the year up to about 80% during the lean season of January and February. Now this price seasonality in the post harvest season creates this potential arbitrage opportunity if people can store their grain, they can potentially sell it later for a higher price.
But often small scale producers are credit constrained, they have bills to pay at harvest, and they don't have a safe place to store quality grain, so this inhibits them from storing and reaping those benefits. Sometimes this is called the sell low problem, where people are forced to sell low at harvest due to credit and storage constraints. Even if they have to buy back later in the year at higher prices, even though we would hope that they could do the opposite. The second challenge are the physical losses from storage. You can see this moldy and insect damage grain on the right, and these physical losses from post harvest pests can be large, estimates range from five to 30% of production. We talk about quantity losses, which are caused by pests where they physically destroy what's in storage these pests or insects and rats.
As well as maybe quite sometimes less recognized quality losses where you can have physical quantity, but it's not safe to eat because of aflatoxins which are a toxin caused by fungus that cause liver cancer and stunting in children. And also chemical residues as well from people using storage chemicals to try to preserve grain, so we worry about the quantity and the quality losses as well. So when we look at how can hermetic bags help solve these post harvest challenges, comparing hermetic technology with traditional technology, traditional smallholder storage strategy might look like this picture on the left, where you have a traditional storage structure. And maybe you're shelling your grain, and storing it in a woven single layer, plastic bag, like the one you see in the middle, it offers no insect protection.
So you have a physical structure in the hut on the left, and a bag to put it in. If you want to try to prevent insect damage, you could use some kind of storage, chemical, like Actellic, which you see there in the middle. You store in that way, and in 3, 6, 9 months, you may have grain looking like the picture on the right. Now if we can move away from that system, and help people, and encourage them to move to a hermetic storage system like the pics bag.
And there are other bags as well which we'll talk about that offer hermetic storage technology, that pics bag offers this improved system, and Dr. Laurie Kitchel will talk about that in detail. You have three layers of bag two inner layers of high density polyethylene Which creates an airtight or hermetic environment, you close it up like the picture on the left. Without the use of chemicals that airtight environment kills insects, prevents mold from growing, which reduces aflatoxin contamination so you preserve quality and quantity without the need for chemicals, rats can smell it. So you don't have rats eating your grain, and you have this great looking maze, like what you see on the right.
So it's a very effective technology, and when we think about the benefits of that next to the cost when we talk about the economics of it for maize. A basic staple in much of Africa, a PICS bag talks costs about $2.50 to hold 100 kilograms of shelled maize. If you use it properly, your quantity losses and your quality losses are close to zero. And it preserves that quality grain that can be collateralized for sale later in the year like we saw in that previous figure of the price.
Hopefully, you can get a higher price with the safe storage strategy. And the quality of the bag means that it can be used for two to three seasons. If you contrast that to a regular bag which we see up top, cost about 50 cents, offers no insect protection. If let's say you lose 7%, which is maybe a low estimate, the loss of that 7 kgs on 100 kg bag is close to $3. If you wanna apply insecticide it costs about 50 cents per application, but over the course of a year would have to be applied two to three times. And you can only use the bag, the regular woven bag, for one season.
So we estimate that the PICS bag for maize breaks even after one to two seasons. So if you can use it for two to three seasons you can get that extra value. If you compare maize which is relatively low value to a higher value crop like cowpea for cowpea, the breakeven is much faster. Plus using the PICS bags you save on the labor of having to apply chemicals multiple times, not to mention the health benefits of not having to apply chemicals and reducing aflatoxins for consumption. So multiple benefits economic and health and labor savings of using the hermetic bags. Even though we can see that hermetic technology is cost effective, there's still challenges and also opportunities for scaling it up and bringing it to the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere.
So our speakers are gonna get into these issues. We have a great lineup, Dr. Laurie Kitch the CEO of PICS Global will talk about the history and the current outlook for PICS bags communication. Charlene Mckoin, the principal of Mckoin International Development, will give a donor perspective on commercializing the PICS bag. Dr. Tahirou Abdoulaye will talk about adoption and constraints for scaling up PICS in West Africa.
And Dr. Dieudonne Baributsa from Purdue will talk more about scaling PICS and other post-harvest technologies. And again, I'm your moderator, and I'm happy to take any questions after the talk in my email below.
So thank you for your time and we'll move forward with our next speaker, Dr. Laurie Kitch. I would encourage you to submit questions into the Q&A box. We'll take all questions from our speakers and our panelists at the end. So we'll move forward with Dr. Kitch, thank you very much. >> Hi, my name is Laurie Kitch.
And I'll be talking about PICS bag technology. It is estimated that on average low resource smallholder farmers around the world lose about 20 to 30% of their stored grain to insect, pests, and molds. In many African countries losses can exceed 50%.
According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses food grains with about 4 billion US dollars every year, seriously impacting the lives of millions of smallholder farmers. Traditional storage methods are generally ineffective in reducing these losses, and pesticide powders are often the only solution. But they are not widely available. They must be reapplied frequently.
They're relatively ineffective, and they are the cause of frequent poisonings and deaths because of misuse and contamination. I was part of a small team of researchers from Purdue University led by Dr. Larry Mergo, who in 1987 launched a USAID supported bean cowpea CRISP project in collaboration with the Institute of agricultural research in Cameroon. The goal of the project was to find solutions to storage problems encountered by low resource farmers in Cameroon. Cowpeas are an important food crops throughout the whole region of Africa and suffered very heavy losses from the cowpea group and colossal glucose regulators.
Our challenge was to find solutions that would be readily available and affordable to smallholder farmers in Northern Cameroon. The major criterion for project success was widespread adoption by farmers. In order to increase the likelihood that a new technology would be adopted, we established a number of criteria we believed that new technology would have to meet in order to be widely adopted. We agreed that a new technology would need to be developed with as much input as possible from farmers who need to use locally available materials. Would have to be simple to learn and implement, would have to stop grouping populations and cowpea grain stores from expanding.
And would have to not affect the viability of the cowpeas in seed, and not change the nutritional or the culinary properties of the grain. It wouldn't use insecticides, and finally would have to be of low cost. In addition to establishing criteria for guiding the innovation process, the project also developed a strategy that focused on impact and adoption. It was based on in-depth knowledge of farmer practices, use of readily available materials, participatory farmer trials to test prototypes. Establishing insect room facility to permit easy testing of the various solutions and provide for effective demonstrations. It was also based on advanced laboratory capabilities at Purdue allowing for more basic research, and collaboration with local manufacturers for developing prototypes and fine tuning.
Within four years the project strategy and research infrastructure had led to development for solutions to the cowpea storage problem, including improved storage of ash, solar heaters, triple bagging, and cowpea varieties with pod resistance to blueprints. The most successful storage solutions virtually the working project was the PICS emetic grain storage bag, which was originally referred to as triple bagging. The PICS bag is a hermetically sealed grain storing bag composed of two inner liners of thick specially blended high density and low density polyethylene film and an outer liner of woven polypropylene. The necessary oxygen barrier is achieved by doubling liners and ensuring their sufficient thickness. We found that a thickness of about 80 microns per liner was ideal because it is thick enough to provide an adequate O2 barrier and prevent insect punctures.
But thin enough and flexible enough to allow easy folding, twisting, and tying. In addition to providing an increased oxygen barrier, the use of two liners also provides a space which is difficult for hatching insect larva to traverse. The inner liners are transparent enough to provide a safety check with the bags when they rupture. The outer layer woven polypropylene provides an additional O2 barrier and also provides important strength attributes for handling, transport, and marketing. The three layers of heavy plastic along with a specific blend of polymer is used, provides for a bag of exceptional durability. If liners are carefully inspected for holes and tears, the bag can easily be used for a minimum of three seasons.
The PICS bag has been wildly successful and has positively impacted the lives of millions of smallholder farmers. Shortly following the introduction of the PICS bag, additional research revealed that the bag was not only effective for storage pests of cowpea. It was also effective in protecting nearly all major food grains and legumes, including rice, maize, sorghum, wheat, peanuts, chickpeas, pigeon peas, lentils, common bean, and others. Today, over 30 million PICS bags have been sold in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We estimate 30 million bags would equate to roughly 9 million tons of grains being stored safely relate to a cash benefit to smallholder farmers of over 2 billion US dollars.
I think we can point to a number of factors that contributed to the success of the expand innovation. First of all, the innovation process itself was underpinned by comprehensive research. Secondly, there was a heavy reliance on the farmer inputs. Thirdly, there was an early decision to use only locally available materials.
We sought a hermetic solution based on entomology and not polymer science. And lastly, cowpeas and provide an ideal model system for looking at storage technologies. This is because, first, storage losses to goo goo are extremely high, with losses of over 100% within two to three months being very common, any solutions would have a major impact. Secondly, goo goo colonies can be easily cheaply maintained in the laboratory, which makes large scale infestations of trials very easy.
In the conclusion, I would like to say that the success of Pittsburgh innovation has now led to the founding in 2016 of a new social enterprise known as PICS Global. PICS Global licenses companies around the world to manufacture and distribute to expand and currently has a presence in over 30 countries. With the success of PICS Global, I think it is safe to say that the PICS bag has now successfully transitioned from the storage solution to a full fledged and profitable commercial product. >> Thank you so much for that Dr. Kitch for that great history and update on where things are with the PICS bag and the commercialization. Before we move to our next presenter, let me just remind you, please keep those questions coming in the Q&A.
We will discuss and have a discussion period after all the presenters. So now, it's my pleasure to introduce Miss Charlene McKoin who will discuss the PICS bag from the donor perspective. >> Hi, I'm Charlene McKoin, and I was the project officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the donor for the project, on the PICS3 project. And just to start off with, I want to be able to tell you that this was one of the most interesting and professionally satisfying projects that I worked on in my career, both in terms of giving back and with the wonderful group of people that I was allowed to work with. But I'm really here to talk to you about the donors rationale for commercializing PICS bags, and why we really pushed to have commercialization be one of the keys of this last project funding. So with PICS3, we wanted to make sure that production, distribution, and the purchase of the bags would continue beyond the end of the project.
We knew that PICS bags were a simple and expensive, but a very effective innovation. We also found that they were clearly marketable. I was able to go to Burkina Faso with the PICS team and I went to an agricultural fair honoring Larry Murdock for the creation of the bags. Before this agricultural fair which probably had 5 or 6,000 people attending, I was able to meet with several women's groups who had worked with the PICS project and were big proponents of the bags. They continued to call the bags miracle bags and they testify, That the bags allow them to store grains for the entire year, and had increased the surplus that they were able to sell.
As well as being able to store beans and/or other grains for longer periods of time so that they could sell them at higher prices after the end of the harvest season. During that same agricultural fair, I was able to talk to some of the seed entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso. All of them testified as well that they had had significant improvement in their ability to store seed.
They talked about the increased viability of seed for certification, where in the past before PICS bags, they had perhaps one month before they had to sell the seed, otherwise it wouldn't be certified. After the use of PICS bags, they were able to store the seed for two or three months. So they really did appreciate the use of these bags. Getting back to the sustainability, we felt that we really needed to build both the demand side and the supply side.
On the demand side, creating a sustainable supply chain and having the private sector be involved was necessary. But for the private sector to be involved, there was sort of a catch 22 situation. Because they needed to know that there was enough demand out there for them to start manufacturing the bags, for vendors to buy the bags and store them, and have them available during the season when the grains were harvested.
So one of the things that we did was to continue to train farmers. Training them on the proper use of the bags, this was exceedingly important because you don't want them to misuse the bags and not have them hermetic storage that the bags were supposed to be able to provide. Because if the bags don't work, your brand dies, and you might as well pack up and go home. So we worked with NGOs, extensionists, private sector agents, all of them to go out and train farmers out in the field on how to use these bags. In the end, I think we trained about 68,000 farming communities and 7 million farmers by the end of 2020. And I have been told that by the end of the first quarter of 2021, globally, 30 million bags had been sold.
So we're pretty proud of the fact that people are using it, and we did create that demand. This brings me back to the point of branding of PICS bags. This was definitely part of creating that demand because, again, the brand will die if the bags don't work.
But there were also competitors, there were several hermetic bag competitors. Some of them were quite good like GrainPro, but many of them were fakes. They were knockoff, so someone would just take a plastic bag and have a logo similar to PICS stamped on it. So it was also equally important to teach the farmers not just how to use the bags properly, but what was a PICS bag.
You needed to explain triple layers, the thickness of the bag, look for this kind of trademark on the logo, all of these kinds of things. Again to do that we were working with NGOs and extensionists, but we also use media, because you really do need to advertise and market to create a brand. So, we focused on radio programming, posters, TV programming, cell phones, newspapers and even cartoons.
We used information and communication technology ICT tools, short message servicing, to both advertise the benefits of the bags, how to use the bags and also the point of sale. Because we discovered early on in the project that farmers were having trouble finding the bags so we needed to advertise. This is where you can get them. We were lucky and using and finding Farm Radio as a project partner.
Not only were they able to do some very clever programming to help us commercialize and teach about using the bags properly etc, but they were also able to capture some data for us. So from an MA learning point of view, they were very prepared. On the supply side, obviously we needed manufacturers to produce the bags, we needed vendors and distributors, and we needed finance. And finance is continuously. One of the biggest problems that we have in Africa, especially in the world of business.
So, to help on the supply side first, for vending and for distribution, we got women's groups involved as well as youth. The women would buy the bags, take them out of communities, sell them to other women's groups. Youth would work with the vendors, get on the bus with 40 or 50 bags and go out to remote communities and sell them and they were able to retain a profit. Or they would get in a truck with a microphone and advertise the bags and tell people where the bags would be sold the next market day. So youth and women were able to create small businesses in this sense.
We were also very lucky to that a few private sector companies really understood what we were trying to do. Especially in East Africa, there are a few companies there was one in Ethiopia, one in Kenya and another one in Tanzania who were willing to underwrite and support the the project. By manufacturing distributing the bags as well as basically setting up lines of credit for their vendors. This time they were working with vendors that they knew but instead of insisting on payment in advance they were willing to wait till the end of the harvest season to be paid. One of these manufacturers, we're very proud to say is now actually building a plant in Tanzania that will be dedicated only to the production of PICS bags.
So we consider that a remarkable success. So that's PP limited out of Tanzania. The private sector in general has made these efforts to leverage what was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant.
But we also were able to leverage through other donors and NGOs. Catholic Relief Services, One-Acre, USAID in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Malawai. Helped promote the bags by either purchasing them and reselling them to their beneficiaries, to their clients.
Or just by spreading the word and helping us in terms of training farmers on how to use them. So where do we stand now? Pix Global in 2016, Purdue licensed Pix Global to take over the commercialization of the PICS bags and in 2017 PICS Global became an operational social enterprise. Again, we're very happy to say that in 2020 PICS Global reached profitability and that was with $100,000 initial investment after the project funds ended. That's the story of commercialization for PICS. >> Thank you, Charlene for that very informative and interesting discussion about the donor perspective and the history of PICS commercialization.
Just a reminder to put your questions in the chat, they're coming in and we're gonna be excited to answer them after all the presentations. Now I'm excited to hand it over to Dr Tahirou Abdoulaye from IITA, who will talk about adoption and the constraints to adoption of scaling up PICS bags in West Africa. >> Good morning, good afternoon, wherever you're joining from. My name is Tahirou Abdoulaye I would be making the next presentation. I would like to talk to you a little bit about adoption of PICS.
I would focus mainly on West Africa and try to draw some insight about East Africa. And then just discussing some challenges, and what did we learn in this process? Before I go on with the talk I really would like to acknowledge most of the stuff are we talking about here is draws heavily on work we have done with Professor Lowenberg DeBoer. And also all the PICS collaborators over the years so I don't want to mention any names so I don't forget others. And then for any reason you need more information, there is a great paper published Bokar et al in 2014 on food crop protection that you carried and get more information on what am saying. So my presentation today I would give a little bit of background on adoption.
Then I will discuss some numbers and go on and discuss some constraints about the adoption of topics. And then I will try to end with some lessons that we have learned over the years in doing this work. The objective as I said, I will try to summarize on adoption of PICS, discuss a little bit again the concept, and then present the lessons learned over the years.
Adoption, so, if you look at a theory adoption is defined as a sustained use of a technology over the years with or without support to farmers sometimes is with subsidies, sometimes without subsidies. Basically the farmers have to lose usually we say in cropping at these two, three seasons before we can change for an option. But however, this pattern first depends on the type of technology and also in the situation where we are. In general everybody kind of agrees with an S shaped curve to model the pattern of adoption. So that adoption starts very slow at the beginning because pharmacies to learn.
And then it picks up and then at certain point you kind of plateau, and the growth slows down and organ stops. Basically the same shift that takes follow. They are the different that we really make huge awareness creation investments are the beginning of the process through the help with different donors may lay the foundation first.
And as the donors come in that helps really push. That part is very fast and then with our bonus picks up quickly. In discussing the numbers I would like you guys to just look at this slide that I took from an old presentation in 2009, I think, not Google I guess.
At that time, we're looking at what are the technologies that people are using to store, what are the hermetic options that are available? And you can see on this slide, no PICS, it doesn't exist. It was just other traditional insecticide, and triple bag, because triple bag will push and that's another story will come back to. But then I started with this one [INAUDIBLE] creation. This is in 2016 in Nigeria. If you look at the blue bar is have you ever heard of hermetic storation? About 70% of our sample said yes, we've heard of it.
Have you heard of PICS bag or PICS technology in general, about 48%? Are you using any hermetic storage about 50%. So this is giving us a oneness that was created over the years in 2016. However, this wasn't about hermetic storage.
If you look at the graph on top on the left side, that's type of arithmetic solely used in Nigeria, this is mostly used in 2016 in Nigeria. That's the yellow bar was 39% and then others follow. And what is the source of information that the farmers use? Up to the end the farmer to farmer relatives and friends who I might say, even though we separated with the PICS, demonstrator, these are also often people who have attended PICS demonstration. So they actually feed and inform their relatives about the existence of the technology.
But my most favorite chapter of all of these is this one, on the use of PICS over time. In 2014, we have conducted a survey in Nigeria, that's the blue bars. And you can see for the different type of parametric options that are there. Of all of them, only the PICS has increased from the baseline in 2014 to the middle line in 2016.
It went from 26% to about 39% of our sample are using expired. So, basically what I see we have raised awareness. People are losing the bag. Things like this that we know have occurred before in Nigeria, like this headline saying that family dies from eating beans with insecticide, we don't see them as often. This public awareness, trying to raise awareness, this is on the right, the NAFTA, that's it for them, drug administration of Nigeria trying to warn people about the use of chemicals. All of these have subside.
Is not to say just is about PICS, but I think we have contributed heavily to create that awareness of pay attention to insecticide in your food. My favorite is this picture that I'm showing there, this lady have all her PICS bags in the same room where she consider her most valuable things. These are all her plates and stuff the same room with a big bucket showing that the bags are safe to store anywhere you want. Now, I don't want to leave the impression that it's all rosy because if you look at it, this is a slideshow for you in 2016.
The quantity of cowpeas that is stored in PICS bags as a percentage of total quantity produced in Nigeria, what about a little less than 12%? So there is a lot of cowpeas that we're not capturing in the PICS bag, even though we're capturing a lot of farmer using the PICS bag. There is a lot that is still not in the PICS bag and this is due also to a lot of constraints. And that's brings me to discussing the constraint part of my presentation. Again, it's live of 2011. And you will just focus on the green bars on the top to the right.
You can see almost every country, Nigeria, Burkina and the Chad, the green is all about bags are not available. But in 2016 this graph now just focused on Nigeria, we still have the same story the red part is saying don't know where to find the bag. So still, again about availability as a constraint. Other constraints that we have found over the years include the financing. Usually people say the cost of the park is very small. Yes it is small.
But to store a crop, a farmer puts up a benefit that you can get now so that requires financing for him to do. And there is a great paper work done by Jake and his students in Tanzania that shows clearly that finances are an issue. And access to credit actually lead to more quantity being stored in PICS bag. Also, the reuse of bags, the reuse of has this problem that we had with hybrid seed in Africa.
The problem is, once a farmer can use two or three times, why will he go back and buy every year. We're able to demonstrate or we continue to try to demonstrate that look, if you buy every year you get more productive. There is a little work to be done to show to the farmers that renewable every year has more benefit than keeping about for two or three seasons, which I don't know yet.
There is also the issue of this fake bag issue. To me imitation is the best form of flattery. It means that PICS is doing very well. People are imitating it however, We have people who are imitating, who are not meeting the standards of PICS. So it's dangerous in the sense that is killing the technology because people might use it and say, all the bags don't work. So there is that danger out there that we need to keep in mind.
So just to run over things that I think has really learned. One is the role of training and demonstration. I alluded a little bit to it earlier because people see and they tell their family that brings the story out.
There is also the importance of the timing. For when we started PICS West Africa for example, all these stories about people dying because they use chemical in their beans it really helped us a lot in pushing the technology. The characteristics of technology and economics as is very important, the PICS technology is divisible. I don't have to buy ten bags if I need only one bag I will buy. But the one I like the most is I don't have to feel the bag all the way 200kg or 50kg.
If it's only 30 kg that I can afford, the PICS bag will still work for me. And that division really think helps a lot. Also the type of crops that we are storing. I think in West Africa, pushing PICS and cowpea really helped us a lot. And the trick very well, same thing in East Africa.
Maize is the crop and is an important economic crop under which people have experienced already economic losses. So that if you give them options to reduce those losses, they pay attention to that. There is also the role of private sector and having very good private sector distributors, it really makes a huge difference. We have some examples in Asia or for example in Tanzania, where really the distributor made a difference in terms of how much bags get pushed out and sought. Also I think what happen is Building PICS as a product, it helps bundling it with other products. That was a case of the seller in Tanzania, tried to find other product that he can sell, bundling with and help exposure in the market.
But to me, the most important thing is partnership. Partnership with local leaders, or with private sector. Because as, really, scientists when we started, we thought that PICS is the technology. We just know how to push technologies. And but our challenge was, how we gonna do demonstration in 12,000 villages? We thought it was a lot of work, and something big to solve, when it turned out to be our least of our problems.
I think the supply chain partner is the one that gave us the most work. And without partners, people could not have handled those parts of the chain. The other thing that I want to mention very quickly is other usage. Depending on the country, farmers quickly find that, look, once I store my copy, or my crop, in PICS bag, I can do something else with a bag. Just recently, just came back from New Zealand, I found a lady selling ice, and she's using a PICS bag.
Because with that air not coming in, it helps her keep her ice, without melting, for a few more hours. And that will help her to sell it. These are little, little thing that happened, and then it helps the technology also stay afloat. So just to conclude, I think two things.
One, or a few things, one is I think we have done a good job, and the onus is continuing to up to today. Because what we have is, right now we have a bit of money. And in leisure, I'm reading a project funded by Norway. PICS is the big component of that project, and there are similar other projects like that, that one can say.
However for all of us, we need to continue to find a way to address, how will the little farmer in very smallest village get access to these bags? And that require more work with the supply side in this private sector. The financing, I think we need to continue to address it. But there's a larger frame of financing of agriculture for development in Africa in general, because the issue of financing is one of the main problem of agriculture in Africa. There are other technical issues that I think, to me, sealing of the bag, I don't know how it's gonna be sorted out. But if we are to get the attention of large producers in [INAUDIBLE], The scientist needs to continue to work on things like that, and see how we can improve on the sealing and access to those bags, thank you very much. >> Thank you for that very informative presentation, drawing on your number of years of experience promoting PICs adoption and scale up across Africa.
Very interesting, again, let me remind you to please submit your questions into the Q&A box. We will answer questions and have discussion after our final presenter. Who, last but not least, is Dr.
Dieudonne Baributsa, who was the PI, the leader of the PICS3 project. And he will talk more about scaling up the PICS bags and other important postharvest technologies. So go ahead, Dieudonne. >> Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. My name is Dieudonne Baributsa, I'm a faculty here at Purdue University. And today, I will be sharing the PICS experience in scaling this post service innovation, and some of the lessons we have learned.
I'm sure many of you are here because you are interested in scaling technology or innovation to smallholder farmers. Before we think about scale, we need to ask ourselves, what benefit are we bringing to our customers in the case of PICS smallholder farmers? During storage, farmers lose substantial quantity of grain due to insects. These losses are qualitative as well as quantitative. Farmers end up losing all their grain, or they sell their grain at discounted price after harvest. But with PICS bags, which are AAA or hermetic bags, we can maintain the quality of the grain from harvest until when the grain is sold or consumed. So what are some of the benefit we sell to farmer or farmers? The PICS bags are chemical free, so farmers don't need to use insecticides.
They are very effective, so they can store grain and seed as well, for several months to several years. They are cost-effective, cheaper or same price, compared to alternative storage methods. They are easy to use.
So once you have the bag, all you need is a string to attach it. And they can be reused for several seasons. So some of the lessons we have learned from scaling PICS, you really need to have a good technology that is addressing a bigger problem. And also you need to have a good value proposition to your customers. In our case, again, smallholder farmers. Aside from having a good technology and a good value proposition, you need to have a good plan how you're going to scale.
In the case of PICS, we had a two-prong approach. One was to create the demand or build the market, and the other one was to work with the private sector to supply the technology. At the end, we had to make the connection between the farmers and the suppliers, to make sure those farmers who needed bags could find them in local markets. So what we have learned is constant follow up at the manufacturing level.
And supply is really key to making sure quality products are being produced and supplied to farmers. And adapt the training to the local context to increase the demand for the technology. To reach millions of customers, we rely on government extension agents to implement training in thousand of villages and reach millions of farmers. As part of the training, farmers had the opportunity to test the efficacy of the bags for four to six months.
These are farmers from Burkina Faso, who are looking at the quality of their grain after four to six months of storage. The size of the market really matters. Often, when you're looking for a manufacturer, they will ask, where is the market and how big is the market? So being able to answer those two question's really important to attract their interest in manufacturing and selling the PICS bags.
In scaling a new innovation or technology, it is important to think about new market for sustainability. What I mean by new markets, it's new use of the technology and expression to new geographic areas. In the case of PICS, we started in West Africa, focusing on cowpea, but we quickly learned from farmers that the bags could be used to store other commodities and grains.
In 2011, we started to explore the use of the PICS bags to store other grains. And we conducted research in East Africa on maize, and in Asia, on peanuts and pigeonpea. We used the result of these experiments to expand the commercialization From West Africa to East Africa, in Southern Africa, as well as to Asia, and Latin America. Overall, we tested more than 15 crops on several insect pests.
We were able to achieve these results through partnership and collaboration with local, national and international organization research as well as NGOs. Capacity building for local partners to conduct research and extension activities are also key to sustainability. This is my most exciting slide. It shows how we can move a product from the lab into the marketplace.
At the beginning, the project was buying the bags and giving them to the private sector on conciment. Over time, government and NGOs started buying bags as well. From 2009 there was a small interest of the private sector. That interest grew and the private sector has taken over the supply chain.
So we successfully transfer the supply chain from the project to the private sector. During the promotion of the PICS Bags for Cowpea storage, the sales were flat, in part because this was a new product that was not known by many farmers. Then we saw an exponential growth of the sales of the PICS bags from 2012 to 2020. This was due to the commercialization of the PICS bags to store other crops, and also the commercialization of PICS bags to new regions. We have learned that input supply chain or private sector is key to commercialization and key to scaling.
So currently, there are several manufacturers and distributors that are producing and selling these bags throughout the world. But mostly in Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia, as well as Latin America. Incentives are needed for all stakeholders along the value chain to successfully scale a new product.
In case of PICS, we had many stakeholders, including donors, NGOs, government, private sector, and farmers. Each of these stakeholders need to have incentives to continue doing what they do. With an investment of $24 million to support the commercialization and scale up of the PICS Bags. The private sector has been able to leverage this funding with about $20 million. With this investment of about $44 million, farmers have been the largest winner. They've made, or saved somewhere around $1.8 billion.
The private sector has made $26 million. To further strengthen the commercialization and scale up of PICS, we are looking at two additional but complementary technologies. This includes a moisture assessment technologies and drying technologies. These technologies will allow farmers to store and dry grain in PICS. Thank you! And that's my contact at the bottom.
>> Thank you Junaid. That was really great, great way to wrap up the presentations and talk about the scaling up. There's a lot of questions coming in specifically related to scaling up and commercializing the technologies. So right now we're gonna go to the live discussion with our panelists.
Please keep the questions coming in the Q&A box. I'll start by summarizing and asking the panelists to comment on the questions that have already come in and we'll keep this going. I'll keep checking while people are answering. And just to the panelists, let's try to keep our answers concise so that we can get through as many questions as possible. There are quite a lot of questions. So the first question and this was touched upon in a couple of different presentation was there's a new technology here's need to build awareness.
And creating awareness in a rural setting can be expensive. So how do we tackle generating demand and building awareness? What are some of the sort of most important lessons for building awareness and creating demand for the PICS technology that can apply to other technologies and innovations? Maybe Junaid Can I go to you first on that. >> Yeah thanks Jake's.
So I think I mentioned this in my presentation. So I did mention about having a good value proposition is really key and also having a technology that is tackling a very important problem. Cause most of the time, if you have a mismatch, you have a good technology, but there is no not really a big issue then it's not really gonna pick up. Or if you have a big problem but the technology doesn't really have a good value proposition then farmers are not going to adopt it.
So I think there is a need to think about the value proposition of a technology that you bring into solve a big problem. I think that's really key for being able to get a huge adoption. The second aspect I think is thinking about the size of the market as I mentioned.
Often, you have a new technology and then you go in 10 farmers in 10, 20 villages. Sometimes it's not big enough to be able to attract the interest of the private sector. So being able to think about the scale of the demonstrations, it's really important as well to increase adoption and sustainability. >> Thank you, Junaid. Charlene, would you like to comment on building demand, how you think we can get farmers interested in that creating awareness? >> Sure, I'd be glad to [COUGH].
The only thing I would actually add to what Junaid just said is, the farmers have to try it, here the proof is in the pudding. And I think that was where the gates foundation funds, were really able to kick start PICS bags. Because we were able to go in and train farmers how to use them.
I think at the beginning, we probably had to give some away, I'd have to ask Junaid, because he was around before I took over the project at the foundation. But I was amazed at how quickly once people had tried the bag and they saw that they worked. Again going back to the women that were at that I met in Burkina Faso, they told me that after a month, they usually just had powder rather than cowpeas in their bags. After using the regular bags, I should say. After using PICS bags, they were able to keep their grain in really good condition for months at a time.
So, as I said they called them miracle bags. They try them they worked. But to have that happen, you really do need someone to fund that initial step one. >> Thank you for that Charlene. I guess let's build on that as there were questions that came in about building demand. There are also questions of course, about the supply side, about the supply chain.
What are some key takeaways for getting the private sector interested, building the supply chain. And then the concern that this was a donor funded project, so how much of this was driven by the project versus true private sector interest? So I know that was mentioned in the presentations in a couple different times, but maybe just some of the key [INAUDIBLE] around supply side and the donor involvement. Who would like to talk? Yeah, Charlene, if you'd like to talk about that, then we can go to others. >> Again, I think that, that transition from the donor project to having some interest from the private sector. It took some time, but it certainly grew and once it started growing it was for sure pretty dynamic. I'm going to say that a lot of it had to do with getting vendors on board and making sure that there was sufficient product available for the farmers.
There was the catch 22 because the vendors of course started seeing the demand. They were willing to carry the product but at first didn't want to purchase them from the manufacturers. Because their idea was, well, we don't know how many we're gonna sell and what if the cowpea or the maize production, the yields are low this year for whatever reason. So, that's the world of business and convincing people that the bags aren't gonna go bad, you can store them in your warehouses or whatever.
Unfortunately, a lot of vendors don't have that kind of space. So it was again having to do that kind of funding and that's why for me, it was very important that we started getting manufacturers who got it. Saw the demand, were willing to collect their money at the end of the harvest season, at least with the vendors that they knew and trusted. But creating demand, it's not necessarily linear. There's a lot of ups and downs but again, I think PICS bags are proof positive that this kind of approach does work.
>> Yeah, can I add something Jake? I think what that the question about creating demand is really an important one. So for a product like PICS I mean can be any other product, you're dealing with a product with a low margin. So, that means to get the private sector to jump in right at the beginning, it's really difficult. Second also, you're dealing with a new product so a product that is not known, and then it's being bought by smallholder farmers who don't have a lot of money.
So at some point to get the product going just like things have been done for fertilizer, I mean you need some donor support to be able to create the promotion, create the demand and so on. Because even for, aside from smaller farmers where we need to create awareness, we also did create awareness among the private sector. So they need dedication to understand that this is a product that has a huge potential in terms of markets and so on. So being a new product and also a low margin product, it's really hard to get the private sector to jump in right at the beginning to invest. But I think now we are seeing after quite a bit of time of awareness building and they see the potential market, they are now investing their own money in promoting and pushing the product. >> Can I comment on that as well? >> Yeah, sure, of course Larry, go ahead.
>> Yeah, I just wanted to make a comment that what helped carry over some of the funding and things from the Gates Foundation is the fact that not only was there a lot of work done initially with the private sector, but there is a lot of awareness building in the development sector. And other NGOs and other government organizations like that. And so that's helped carry the momentum. Even with the Gates funding has left, the development partners has been what's allowed us to more sustainably carry forward. >> That's great, I do wanna mention that I just in my experience, the challenge too on the supply side is the last mile of the supply chain when you get to the very rural areas. Getting small scale vendors interested and able to have the bags where people need them when they need them as Techoro mentioned in his talk.
And I think some of the things that have been tried that have shown good success in Ethiopia, training youth to go out and sell hermetic bags as a business is a great way to find employment for youth and also bridge that last mile of the supply chain. And then this issue of bundling the PICS bags with other technologies as Jude showed at the end of his talk, the moisture meters, low cost moisture detection devices, potential drying technologies. As a way to make a bigger suite of products for a vendor at the last mile to sell also makes a difference in building that last mile supply chain. But there were some questions about other complimentary technologies.
So maybe Janae or others if you can talk about some of the complementary, post harvest technologies, if you could talk about that a little bit more. How they can help reduce aflatoxin levels, preserve quantity and quality. That was raised in the chats if we could talk about that, that would be great.
>> Yeah, thanks, Jake. So on the question of moisture content, I think the regular moisture content that is recommended for any crop for storage would work fine in PICS bags. But one caveat is that being able to store a seed, you really need to make sure that the moisture content is controlled. So what we recommend for example, on maize is to have grain dried to around 12%.
Because once moisture hits that 14, 15% for maize, you lose a germination of the seed. So being able to control moisture is really important. So, to achieve that what we are doing, as I showed you on my last slide, we are looking at different drying technologies, some that are developed here at Prujun, and we know one has been developed by SJ Voca in Kenya. About the easy dry, it's called easy dry, so we can dry up to one ton and a half of maize per day. And also we have developed these PIMA, which is Prujun Improved Moisture Assessment, which helps farmers access whether the grain is dry enough to be stored in PICS bags.
So those different technologies they really help farmers store and dry grain in PICS bags so they avoid fermentation or loss of germination at the end of the storage period. So, Jack, I think we can also mention about what you've been doing in Senegal and other places. >> That's right, we've been trying to promote a broad range of post harvest solutions through our development partners and private sector partners there.
To get people to, in addition to their hermetic bags, use good drying practices. For many small scale producers in Senegal, is just drying off the bare ground on a plastic tarp, promoting plastic tarps to prevent aflatoxin. Using low cost moisture meters, they cost about, between two and $3 to get them to get the assessment of moisture right for maize. Which is generally about 13 and a half percent moisture content before it's put in the hermetic bag, so that you see those benefits. And when people have those sets of technologies available to them, they do take the drawing in the storage quality. The practices more seriously and they end up with lower aflatoxin levels in their maze, so that you know that is important to think about the whole suite of technologies.
There was another related question around there are a number of other hermetic bags out there other companies making bags, and in some places there's real competition. Between manufacturers which is good, how has this sort of hermetic bag sector grown and developed and what are some of the key ways to drive the whole sector forward? >> Jake. >> Yes. >> Let me get this one first, then let others contribute. I think personally that's one of the benefits I sub seen for the PICS, is really opening up and bringing the whole air matrix stories.
Technology out to the upfront and then make people talk about it and then we have seen a lot of other bugs come. Whether they're genuine bugs or fake bags, I think they all work and they all show the really the benefit of having that air metric notion, and that what is doing. And then we get a lot of penetration is not just really fixed bug that is doing the trick, then pro and other bugs don't wanna mention all the lanes are also doing great. The advantage we have with the PICS is in a lot of areas who are first on the market.
And that big push that we got from the foundation, when we're pushing it is really we're not pushing just fixed, but we're pushing our medic stories, that's what we're advertising at that time. And that brings me the to your earlier question about demand creation because we're pushing hermetic storage, we were a research project. So we tried a lot of methods that people critics in that our three-step demonstration was too expensive, but it was a beginning. And we realized later we know that demonstration was one farmer see, they tell their brothers, they tell their cousins, it works.
And depending on the country, some places radios are very cheap, because people listen to them. And the very way to do other places, we needed to use youth, and there is no one size fits all. But we needed to do that in order to create our network, or metric storage. Thank you. >> Jake? >> Yes, please go ahead. >> Now, just to make a comment about one of the issues that I think is quite critical for the hermetic industry in general, right, at this point is development of standards? And that's a process it's there's been some standards developed in Kenya already.
And currently there's a process underway in the US with Saatva, this engineering group. So this is gonna be the next key step, so that governments have something to do. Help me out the bags that are not affected because there are some out there that are not effective. There's a tendency, I think, for people who started hearing about this to go get cheaper plastic films and recycled plastics from China. >> Thank you, would others like to comment on this one? Charlene, you give your hand up? >> Yeah, just very briefly, I think that, or as Antihero was mentioning. We were promoting, and the foundation was promoting hermetic storage.
PICS was our choice in terms of who we're going to support because we were actively talking to, [COUGH] bring pro as well, but we can't. We couldn't finance everybody, nevertheless for a while I followed GrainPro and some of the other hermetic storage. And I think it's interesting to show that at least with GrainPro, my gut tells me that they weren't as competitive in terms of pricing for small bags, 100 kilo bags and 50 kilo bags. They weren't competitive really with pics bags and Juden A, please correct me if I'm wrong, but what I saw happening with GrainPro. Which is still a big positive for hermetic storage is GrainPro started making larger silos.
So that they could store whether it was Coffee beans, or cow, whatever the grain might be, they can store in a huge silo. So I think that having, I don't wanna say lost out I they probably still do smaller bags. But having realized that there was too much competition in that space, they created something else that was needed, i.e storage at a larger scale for communities of farmers. >> I can try to answer the question. So I think we tried to go with what farmers had handle in their household and so on.
When you look at most markets, it's 50 or 100 kg in most markets. But the challenge we have, I think, its cost of storage. So when you look at the cost of 100 kg and the cost of 50 kg, the price difference is really minimal. That's where you'll find most farmers tend to go with 100 kg bag, though 50 kg it's much easier to handle, but I would say like in Malawi, I think they're distributing 50 kg so it depends on the country.
So the both sides is 50 kg and 100 kg bags are available on the market But it depends on the demand from farmers, then either 50 or 100 kg will be supplied. In term of a larger bag, it's been really a challenge to, I think the demand for 200 kg just too small. That doesn't make sense for the private sector to produce those bags. And then when you look at smaller bags like 10 kg or 20 kg, the cost effectiveness is really lost. Because the cost of producing 100 kg or 50 kg for that matter is almost the same as the cost of producing a 20 kg. But we do have a solution.
So what we do recommend farmers, for instance if they produce a small quantity of grain, let's say 10 kg, 20 kg, 30 kg of beans, of maize and groundnuts, or sorghum and so on. They can put their small quantity into, like shopping bags or whatever other containers they have and then they drop everything inside the PICS bags. So that's what Tahir was talking about the divisibility of PICS. If you have a 20 kg, you can still store it in 100 kg, if you have 40 kg you can still do the same thing. But what we also recommend is if you have different crops, you can put them in smaller bags and then throw everything inside the PICS bag, and it should be able to effectively use the PICS bags.
So the size of the bags on the market is mostly determined by the demand from farmers. >> Thank you, Junet. And then a related question to that, that has come up and we've heard this, of course, whenever I've talked about PICS is the environmental implications of promoting a plastic technology.
What are the environmental implications of that? Can we come up with a way to use less plastic and still have the same effect? I know for example, the AgroZ bag, I think uses one layer of plastic, what can we do to minimize the environmental impacts, can we do better? And how do we think about the trade offs or the benefit of this new storage technology versus maybe the cost of more plastic in the system? Would anybody like to tackle that one? >> Just make a quick comment, it seems like at this point, one of the best routes for us to go is the recycling part. And so we started pursuing that, looking into that seriously in Tanzania. We have a product that we think we can make after recycling the bags and we're putting together kind of ideas behind a pilot to start buying back some of the older bags.
So I think that's gonna be a big step and the way to go. I think some of the biodegradable stuff and plastics, some of that looks possible, but at this point it's kind of a cost issue, it's gonna really change the way that looks. So that's something we're really looking at, it takes global trade off to improvements in that regard.
Yeah, I think also Jacob, maybe Tyler will talk about his experience in West Africa. I've gone many villages, many rural areas, it has been really hard to see any PICS bags in the environment. So that's has been my experience, maybe Tahir can talk about his experience in West Africa. And what we know so far, if PICS bags are no longer good, that means the liners have holes, so they cannot hermetically store grain, most farmers recycle those bags. So they use them to store crops that are less susceptible to insect pests, and some of them hope open those bags, they use them as drying mat, and some of them use them for roofing.
So they have different uses, doesn't mean when it PICS bags is no longer good for grain, aromatically storing grain is just thrown away. No, it doesn't happen, I never seen one. Maybe I will let Tahir make a quick comment.
>> No, yeah Junet, you said it all. I think we are not at that level yet, but it's good we change question to start being forward looking of where are we going? If we have reached a level where 80% of our grain start to get into PICS, then we start worrying about those things. But it's good to start thinking about it right now. The level that we have is so small that almost every bags get some kind of uses. More than five years ago, we have produced posters showing that people are roofing with them, their traditional granary is also plastic bag of PICS.
But we need to find that solution so that we get less plastic in the system for the future, because technology needs to be dynamic and continue to improve, and also to make it a little bit more cost effective to have those kind of bags to make. That allows me Jake with your permission to go back to give you a little story perspective about the size of the bag. When we started in Jare Swakina, women know only 50 kg bags.
And then quickly we learn from the manufacturer that it's not about the same cost to produce a 50 kg unlike 100kg. And then farmers were able to say, no, when we go to the market, we want to put our grain in 100 kg bags. So we switch to the 100 kg bags, then later will receive a comment, no, no, no, we need 50 kg bags.
I think the market work for PICS and every technology we should endeavor to give a buffet of option to the farmer. Make all sizes and depending on the market, depending on the condition of the farmer, he will select or she will select what she needs, thank you. >> Thank you, and just one more, make one comment about the size issue.
One of the issues we're running into now is that, and that's why in Malawi most of the bags we sell are 50 kg is from a legal point of view, and in India as well, we're not allowed to make 100 kg bags because labor and bags are from labor point of view. So that's the case right now in India, I think in other countries. And then I think also it's in Latin America, it may not be legally required, but just different people are not able to really deal with 100 kg bag there.
So Latin America its all 50 kg and most of Asia its 50 kg bags >> So there's definitely local heterogeneity in the laws and the preferences. It's quite interesting, so you have to be adaptable. Just one question that came in, if maybe Laurie, since you're on, specifically, what are the crops that can be stored in the bag? They've been kind of mentioned, we mostly talked about cow pea and maize, but could you just talk about the other crops? >> Yeah, probably that's best addressed to Junet who was involved in a lot of assessment.
But just offhand, I think all your major cereal crops maize, rice, and then legume crops, all the major legume crops, Junet, you wanna expand on that? >> Yeah, we do, PICS farmers can store, we have seen it and most of the learnings you ge