UC Davis Innovators of the Year: DryCard Team

The DryCard team from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was selected for its simple, low-cost invention that helps prevent food spoilage. The reusable DryCard™ is about the size of a business card and uses a strip of cobalt chloride paper that changes color based on humidity. Instructions (available in multiple languages) are printed directly on the card. With a DryCard and an airtight container, farmers can test samples of their crops for dryness in 20 to 30 minutes. Crops that are stored before being sufficiently dry are susceptible to molds and dangerous aflatoxins. Mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem in developing countries, leading to food waste and foods that are unsafe for consumption.

The DryCard team includes: Elizabeth Mitcham, director; James Thompson, postharvest specialist emeritus; Michael Reid, leader for innovation and technology; Angelos Deltsidis, international postharvest specialist; Archie Jarman, program officer; Anthony Phan, staff analyst; and Brenda Dawson, communications coordinator.

The idea for the card came from Reid and Thompson, who have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies to reduce crop losses. Last year the card was named as the top emerging technology for reducing food loss and waste across the African continent at the All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition in Kenya. Through the Horticulture Innovation Lab, the team has collaborated with a network of independent businesses in Africa and Asia that have manufactured and distributed more than 10,000 DryCards. Helping local entrepreneurs manufacture the cards inexpensively but for profit is the team’s strategy for helping spread the product throughout the developing world.

UC Davis researchers Michael Reid and Jim Thompson, drying fruit for postharvest longevity.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

About the award

Established in 2016, the awards recognize faculty, community partners and industry leaders for their work, dedication and success in improving the lives of others and addressing the needs of our global society either through innovations in technology or innovative societal engagement.

“These honorees reflect the growing importance of UC Davis as an incubator and promoter of innovation, not just in the Sacramento region, but in the world,” said Provost Ralph J. Hexter. “They are groundbreakers in finding new ways to feed the world, build community and develop technology that creates a better tomorrow for all.”

The university’s Venture Catalyst team manages the Chancellor’s Innovation Awards as part of its broader mission to enable innovative students, faculty and staff to engage effectively with the innovation community both within and outside the university. “Recognizing our campus innovators and celebrating how their research and innovative university activities positively impact society is one of the ways in which we are supporting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at UC Davis,” said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of research and the executive director of Venture Catalyst within the UC Davis

(Article by Lisa Howard, Office of Research, UC Davis)

Read more about DryCard:

  • Inventing a Low-cost Solution to Reduce Moldy Foods: ‘DryCard’ Takes the Guesswork Out of Drying; news blog article, 2017

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