Postharvest Technology and Economics

Module summary

Module code: FOOD1020
Level: 7
Credits: 30
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Hilary Claire Coote


Pre and co requisites



The development of technology for postharvest handling of food crops and commodities has been central to the development of human civilisation, and is key to maintaining worldwide food supplies. This course provides an overview of the technological principles involved in the handling and storage of both durable and perishable crops and the economic concepts and tools used to evaluate investment in the technologies. The course covers the biological behaviour of the crops, their interaction with the environment, the factors (biological, chemical and physical) that promote their deterioration, and strategies to maintain quality in food crops and prevent losses. It also addresses how investment in such technologies can be assessed and the use of inventory credit systems for reducing trading risk.

Learning outcomes

On completing this course successfully you will be able to:

1 Define the basic biology of food products after harvest and the implications for postharvest handling whilst critically evaluating the importance of postharvest technology
2 Evaluate the effect of environmental factors on product quality and know how to measure these factors
3 Recognise the key quality characteristics of a wide range of commodities and how to measure them
4 Identify correct handling, storage and transport methods for a range of commodities
5 Demonstrate an understanding of key economic principles, particularly and their application to investment in postharvest technology, inventory credit systems for managing risk and processing.

Indicative content

• Background to postharvest commodities and products
• Postharvest biology of plant products
• Physical factors in postharvest quality
• Quality systems
• Technology and management of storage systems
• Fruit and fruit ripening
• Losses and loss reduction
• Economics principles related of investment in postharvest systems and technology
• The role of inventory credit to manage marketing risk of durable crops
• Economics of processing

Teaching and learning activity

The course will be presented using a combination of presentations, case studies, demonstrations and practical sessions. Students will be encouraged to interact with the presenters and among themselves to ensure full understanding of the material presented. Study materials will be supplied to each student to compliment the information discussed during lectures etc. As students are likely to come from varying backgrounds, wherever possible, examples and case studies will be chosen from their home countries to illustrate the principles introduced.

The level of comprehension of course material is monitored by a formal assessment at the end of the course.


Method of summative assessment: Presentation
Outcomes assessed:1,5
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :25%
Passmark: 50%
Outline Details:20 minute presentation (15 minute presentation and 5 minutes of questioning) on reducing postharvest losses and risk.

Method of summative assessment: Report
Outcomes assessed:1,2,3,4,5
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :25%
Passmark: 50%
Word Length: 2,500
Outline Details: An investigation of postharvest quality issues for a particular agricultural product in the student’s country with a costed an analysis of alternative technologies to prolong storage or reduce losses.

Method of summative assessment: Examination
Outcomes assessed:1,2,3,4,5
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :50%
Passmark: 50%
Outline Details:3 hour exam, answering 3 questions out of six, to test understanding and application of course content.

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning: Problem solving using Postharvest case studies.
Outline Details: At intervals throughout the course students will be given information in the form of a case study and asked to provide a short written analysis of the problems, with summary solutions.