In spite of the high global demand for fish which is a major source of animal protein, nearly 10% (13 million tons) of the world’s total fish production is lost through spoilage due to inadequate cold storage and poor marketing/distribution channels. Fish is a highly perishable product that is processed by freezing, canning, salting and drying. About 40% of fish landings in developing countries are preserved through traditional processing methods (smoking, drying and salting) organized at artisanal level. As a result of increased trade and co-operation among neighboring African countries over the past years, processed products from the artisanal sector now form a significant part of the small pelagic fish products traded intra-regionally. Lake Victoria provides about 95% of the total fish landings in Kenya, with Rasrineobola argentea (one of the pelagic species) being the second commercially important fish. It is harvested in very large quantities and is readily available at affordable price and widely used for both domestic and industrial purposes. Open-sun drying is the main preservation method employed by the fish farmers and involves spreading the fish on open ground where it is exposed to contamination, infestation and adverse weather conditions. It is estimated that post harvest losses of between 20 and 50% occur especially during rainy seasons. Although, the landings of R. argentea are higher as compared to other fish species, the value of the catch is often very low due to these huge losses. In an effort to curb these losses, a model of an indirect forced convection solar dryer was developed and tested for thin layer drying of R. argentea fish. The fish, in 10 kg batches were loaded onto the dryer and the moisture content reduced from an initial value of 73% (w. b.) to between 16 and 20% (w. b.) after 11 h of drying at average air flow rate of 0.017 kg/s, where open sun drying took 18 h. The mean efficiencies of collector and drying systems were 9.36 ± 3.95% and 11%, respectively. The drying rate constants of the fish in dryer were found to be: 0.146, 0.206 and 0.148 for the fish in the top, middle and bottom trays, respectively.
Key words: Twin collector, indirect, forced convection, cabinet solar dryer, Rastrineobola argentea fish