It’s in the Bag: The Story of Purdue Improved Crop Storage Bag (PICS)
Farmers at every level in Kenya’s staple sectors experience postharvest losses. In fact, it is not uncommon for a farmer to lose one-third of her maize as a result of poor storage and pest infestation. To address postharvest loss in Kenya, in 2013 Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a USAID program that develops public private partnerships to commercialize agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers, funded Purdue University to commercialize its Purdue Improved Crop Storage bag (PICS), a triple-layer, hermetic grain storage bag. PICS bags sell individually for about $2.50 USD and are adjustable, holding up to 90 kilograms of grain. Households as well as small aggregators can use them over multiple seasons.
To start the commercialization process, Partnering for Innovation helped Purdue connect with a local distributor, Bell Industries, as well as a local manufacturer. Distribution to rural areas was still expensive and time consuming, though, so Bell Industries began targeting groups of farmers through public events and then by selling PICS bags in bulk to wholesalers, farmer associations, and international development projects. However, the tipping point really came in 2014 when Partnering for Innovation introduced Purdue and Bell to the USAID Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises Project (KAVES). KAVES has direct links to farmers and tested the PICS bags under various field conditions. Because of the bags’ high performance, KAVES helped Bell to promote PICS bags by purchasing and distributing the bags as well as conducting trainings and demonstrations for smallholder farmers.
In addition to reducing postharvest loss, the bags also reduce the risk of aflatoxin and do not need pesticides like traditional storage bags. Smallholder farmers find PICS bags to be more affordable and easier to use than other postharvest storage systems, which require pesticides and training. Bell has now sold almost 200,000 bags, which can store more than 19,000 metric tons of grain and continues to expand its market throughout Kenya.
Have questions or ideas about the PIC bags? Post below in the comments section! Or, for more information, visit us at partneringforinnovation.org, call us at 202-733-1198, or email us at [email protected]