PICS for food banks
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Purdue University’s Department of Entomology has worked with farmers to develop a multilayer plastic crop storage bag called PICS (Purdue Improved Crops Storage) bags. The project, which started its third phase in 2014, provides crop storage bags that are produced locally, are affordable for small farmers, are easy to use, and bolster farmers’ incomes while safeguarding food stores for consumption in emergencies.
PICS in Wikipedia
This method of triple bagging creates an airtight environment, and seals any insects present in the crop inside the bag. These insects briefly continue to consume oxygen, but as oxygen levels in the bags drop, and CO2 concentrations rise, the insects stop feeding and quickly die, thereby protecting the crop from further damage. Recent studies have shown that bruchids sealed in PICS bags do not die from asphyxiation, but rather from thirst. This subfamily of Chrysomelidae has the ability to produce water through their own metabolism. This process requires oxygen, so when oxygen levels in PICS bags decrease the bruchids lose the ability to produce water and die of dehydration. It is reasonable to assume that this same adaptation exists in other postharvest insects.
PICS in Kenya
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).
PICS in Sierra Leone
In Sierra Leone, post-harvest losses pose a serious challenge to smallholders and cause food insecurity and reduced income. This is why Cordaid and CRS promoted the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) Bag in Kailahun district in 2015.
PICS in Uganda
First, PICS bags keep insects out. After farmers fill the bags with harvested grains, the bags are tied so tightly that an airtight, or hermetic, seal forms. Without new oxygen flow through the bag, the insects inside the bag die and the physical barrier prevents new insects from entering.
PICS & Kenyan Farmers
Under the aegis of Partnering for Innovation’s market-entry grant, Purdue University introduced its PICS bag to the Kenyan market in partnership with local distributor Bell Industry Ltd. The program recently celebrated a successful milestone in holding 800 bag-opening ceremonies in local villages and markets that demonstrated the bags’ effectiveness. The open bag ceremonies serve as both a public training and marketing opportunity.