​The Agro-Processing and Postharvest Technologies Division of the ARC-TSC, undertakes sustainable, fundamental and novel research on tropical and subtropical crops within the agro-ecological zones of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. The division conduct studies on tropical and subtropical fruits such as mango, litchi, avocado, banana, pawpaw and guava. Indigenous fruits such as kei apple (Dovyalis caffra), simple spined num-num (Carissa edulis), natal apricot (Dovyalis longispina), wild medlar (Vangueria infausta), Transvaal milkplum (Englerophytum magalismontanum), African mangosteen (Garcinia livingstonei) and marula (Sclerocarya birrea) are other fruits currently studied in the division. The division comprises the Agro-Processing and the Postharvest Technologies Unit, all contributing to the overall ARC research outcome of improved nutritional value, quality and safety of agricultural products.  


​Agro-Processing Unit


The need for accessible, affordable, available, safe and nutritious food by consumers is currently on the demand. Fruits and vegetables have long served as a source of food security, providing numerous households with safe and nutritious diets. However, harvested fruits and vegetables undergo loss and waste across the food value chain globally due to several factors including but not limited to processing. Agro-Processing of fruits and vegetables improve the overall acceptability, utilization, handling, storage and transportation of fruits and vegetables, thus reducing food loss and waste. The availability and release of the different food matrices inherent in the processed food for bio-absorption and utilization in the body is enhanced by processing.   

Agro-Processing involves a mixture of techniques and procedures utilized in the preservation and enhancement of food quality. Agro-Processing methods including drying, pulping, extrusion, milling and several others are used in the conversion of harvested produce into raw materials and value added products. Drying techniques such as sun drying, oven, forced air dehydration, microwave and freeze drying, extends the shelf life of fruits, providing it with the desired texture, colour and flavour characteristics. Drying decreases the moisture content of the fruit, thereby reducing microbial activities that result in food spoilage. During drying, the bulk mass of the dried fruits are further reduced, hence making it easier to store and transport the product. This results in the reduction of refrigeration costs and enhancement of marketing period, thus leading to more stable prices and availability in the time of scarcity such as drought and off-season for the processed agricultural produce.

The main focus of the ARC-TSC Agro-Processing Unit is the application of the different drying techniques such as oven, forced air dehydration, microwave and freeze drying in processing of tropical and subtropical fruits. Other sustainable processing methods including pulping, milling and packaging of fruits are also utilized in the unit. The unit further undertakes the sale of dried fruits and fruit flour. Training on drying techniques and other processing methods for tropical and subtropical fruits are also provided by the Unit.

Contact: Dr Tonna Anyasi, Email: AnyasiT@arc.agric.za, Tel: (0)13 753 7083

BananaChips-SM.jpgBanana chips drying​.​

MangoDried-SM.jpgProcessed dried mango.

JamIndigenousFruits-SM.jpgProcessed jams from indigenous fruits.

Postharvest Unit


Approximately one-third of fresh horticultural produce is lost during storage and distribution due to poor handling and lack of knowledge of the physiological processes occurring in crops. High demand for excellent quality products necessitate the need for sustainable innovative postharvest technologies for global market access. The main function of Postharvest Unit is to conduct research related to the maintenance of quality in fruits, from harvest to consumption. This especially pertains to fruit destined for the international market. In addition, the Postharvest Unit conducts research on the influence of pre-harvest management practices on the postharvest quality of fruits. Currently, majority of the research conducted in the unit revolves around assessment of new fruit cultivars/varieties as well as their storage potential, quality evaluation after export simulation and assessment of several cold storage temp​eratures and packaging types (modified atmosphere packaging) on fruit quality. Other areas of research of the unit includes the application and optimization of various food grade preservatives (pretreatments) combined with cold storage to assess the storability and shelf life of minimally processed/fresh-cut fruits.

Contact: Dr​ Rebogile Mphahlele, MphahleleR@arc.agric.za, 013 753 7062

LitchiStorage-SM.jpg​Postharvest packaging and storage of litchi.LitchiPackage-SM.jpgProcessed and packaged litchi.

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