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Tech Smart Cellar Helps Taiwan’s Indigenous Preserve Agricultural Produce

Storing agricultural products can be a huge challenge without a regular supply of electricity. To aid one of the nation’s oldest tribes, students and faculty of Taipei Tech have used technology to mitigate power shortages that adversely affect their ability to store agricultural produce.

The proper storage of their harvested produce has always been a challenge to the Quri Indigenous Community. The county in northeastern Taiwan is not only mountainous but also it’s over 80 kilometres away from Taipei. Located at the Hsinchu county’s mountainside, these indigenous people suffer from energy shortages and restricted access to facilities. Being remote also means fewer chances of getting needed services or getting to services.

Lo Ching-lang, the tribe’s leader shared that their community often suffers energy disruptions due to natural disasters such as storms and too much snow that plague them. To make matters worse, repair teams are slow to arrive as they live deep in the mountains. As a result, their agricultural produce is easily lost.

Thanks to a university outreach dubbed University Social Responsibility (USR), students and faculty from the National Taipei University of Technology or Taipei Tech in collaboration with the private sector were able to come up with a timely solution: a smart cellar that can help the community in storing agricultural produce better. Even better, it is a combination of modern technology and the long-held wisdom of the Atayal.

Collaborating with the Taipei Tech team, Lo described a traditional food cellar that his ancestors have been using for a long time. In response, the research team gathered students who specialise in architecture, civil engineering and cold chain systems. Ultimately, they came up with a smart cellar, an improved design of the Atayal food cellar storage system.

A university professor at Taipei Tech observed that the researchers were able to come up successfully with a smart cold-chain storage system ensuring lowered field heat and cold chain transfers. The facility was built using composite building materials that not only are eco-friendly but also moisture-resistant. Instead of using traditional soil cellar walls, they installed hardy cement equipped with thermal sensors to monitor the humidity. They also attached a water facility to implement cold water piping and a system so data can be obtained when needed.

The smart cellar took about half a year to be built. However, it should be all worth it as the produce sent directly from the farm can last for longer. According to Lo, yields sent there can stay fresh for up to “7 to 10 days”. That should enable them to be able to sell to more direct buyers instead of those thrifty wholesalers.

Digital can be of help to just about every sector of society. Recently, a Taiwan AI-based health monitoring system has become a lifesaver for critically-ill patients. Doctors and nurses can attend to people who are in the ICU better as they can be alerted hours before a patient goes into a state of shock.

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