New Center: Tools, Equipment, and Crops for Smallholder Farms in Developing Countries

[A new outdoor center, part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis, demonstrates tools used to help smallholder farmers in developing countries. There are African and Asian vegetables in raised beds, a solar-powered coldroom, a brick cooler, some solar dryers, and more.]

Outdoor Center Displays Tools, Equipment, and Crops for Smallholder Farmers in Developing Countries

by Brenda Dawson
University of California, Davis
from the Horticulture Innovation Lab blog
July 15, 2015

In a corner of the UC Davis campus, there is a new garden plot with fresh mulch, thriving vegetable plants, young seedlings, and a small shed.

Until recently, there were no signs on this mysterious plot. If you’re at UC Davis, you may have walked by and wondered, “What’s growing on over there?”

This is the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new center at UC Davis, a work in progress.

This map shows the location of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Center, demonstrating vegetables and tools from the program’s work in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This map shows the location of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Center, demonstrating vegetables and tools from the program’s work in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Though the Horticulture Innovation Lab is headquartered here in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, the program also has two Regional Centers at universities in Honduras and in Thailand. These centers demonstrate agricultural technologies that can help smallholder farmers better grow fruits and vegetables, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. With this new demonstration site, the UC Davis campus will now have a center to show curious visitors and neighbors a peek into the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s work in developing countries around the world.

So far, a small team of students, staff and faculty members have put down mulch, installed raised garden beds, and built a solar-powered coldroom (complete with a CoolBot).

Along with staff member Britta Hansen, students-now-graduates Emily Baker and Robert Duggan have been busy planting and caring for an array of vegetables. They selected vegetable varieties common to Africa and Asia for each bed, with seeds from the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) and USDA-ARS. Among the plants are varieties of amaranth, spider plant, nightshade, nakati, moringa, jutemallow, spinach, pumpkin, cucumber, beans, and more.

More work to do

Most recently, faculty members Michael Reid and Jim Thompson have been building a chimney solar dryer that they designed and have tested in many countries around the world. They also build a zero-energy cool chamber used to cool vegetables in many countries, made of sand and brick. The team also installed some temporary signs identifying the vegetables and the technologies with basic information.

In the near future, the Horticulture Innovation Lab team will be working with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden on finishing details, including official signage, paths, and fencing. Since this will be a working site, the team expects there will always be a little more work to do — more vegetables to plant, new agricultural tools to try.

An official launch event to introduce the campus community to the Horticulture Innovation Lab outdoor center is planned for the coming months. In the meantime, feel free to pause on your walk by and check out how those African varieties of amaranth, cowpea and spider plant are faring in this California weather.

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