The quality and shelf life of French beans can be affected within hours of harvesting if the produce is not cooled after harvest. Solar-powered cooling systems are suitable for use in rural areas that are not connected to the grid. This study aimed at developing a solar powered cooling system to improve the quality of French beans in smallholder farms in Kenya. Freshly harvested French beans were stored under conventional field shed conditions and a solar-powered prototype cooler, after which weight and temperature were measured at intervals of 2 h and later packed in modified, atmosphere packaging bags. The bags were stored for 7 days in a cold room. Accumulated gas levels of oxygen and CO2 in the packaging bags were measured at the end of the shelf life. Significant differences (P≤0.05) in weight loss between produce stored in the conventional shed and those in the solar cooler prototype were observed. The weight of French beans reduced by 5 and 2.8% after 7 h under a conventional field shed and a fabricated solar cooler respectively. The volume of CO2 and O2 released from produce stored in a conventional shed and those in a fabricated solar cooler prototype were significantly different (P≤0.05).
Key words: Conventional cooling method, French beans, temperature, solar cooler, weight loss.