The article intends to highlight the many opportunities within the agro-processing industry for agricultural engineers to assist small and medium scale agro-processing entrepreneurs with entering the agro-processing industry. The availability of information and training remain key factors, as well as identifying actual useful equipment requirements by both these sectors seeking to become a part of the agro-processing economy.
South African farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs and households facing current economic realities are searching for new options of surviving, and in the case of farmers and entrepreneurs, growing and expanding their businesses. One of the many opportunities to grow markets, turnover and profits is by adding value to crops, whether produced on a small, medium, or large scale. However, options need to be carefully selected based on sound information and knowledge of the opportunities presenting themselves on a regular basis seen considering the strengths and weaknesses of the individual.
What is the meaning of agro-processing?
Agro-processing can be defined as a set of conservation and handling techno-economic activities that are carried out on agricultural and marine raw produce to make it into a usable end product as food, animal feed, fibre, fuel or industrial raw materials such as leather.
What are the effects agro-processing?
Agricultural produce and raw material come from several sources for example:
- Aquaculture – marine and freshwater sources.
- Meat – poultry, exotic meat, sheep, beef, goat.
- Grains – summer and winter grains including maize, barley, wheat, sorghum, rice etc.
- Edible oils – soybeans, sunflower, olives, ground nuts, palm oil etc.
- Sugar – sugar cane, sugar beets.
Through processing, more complex products are made from these and many other raw materials.
When looking at food processing for example, most food products available to consumers have been processed in some way or other, such as cleaning produce before it is packed in plastic- or net bags. Two types of processing methods may be performed on raw foodstuffs:
- Primary Processing: this type of processing includes the simplest of processes such as washing, peeling, chopping, ageing, butchery, squeezing, shelling, gutting (fish), the milling of wheat for flour production, and the processing of sugarcane.
- Secondary Processing: this type of processing involves the conversion of primary processed products into more complex food products and includes one or more of the following procedures: mixing, depositing, forming, moulding, enrobing, layering, dividing, extruding, drying, fortifying, aerating, heating, cooking and cooling.
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