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



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 module 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 module 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 supporting farmer cash flows and reducing trading risk.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. Characterise the basic biology of food products after harvest and appreciate the implications for postharvest handling whilst critically evaluating the importance of postharvest technologies
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 their application to investment in postharvest technology, inventory credit systems 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 module combines 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 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.


Portfolio: 50% weighting, 50% pass mark. Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Word Length: 3000 words. Outline Details: A portfolio of work up to 4,000 words on a topic to be set by module leader/team.

Presentation: 50% weighting, 50% pass mark. Learning Outcomes: 1, 5. Duration: 10 minute presentation. Outline Details: presentation on a topic set by module leader/team followed by a five minute question/answer session.

Formative Assessment: Students will be given information from a case study and asked to provide a short analysis (600 words) of the problems, with summary solutions that link to the report assignment; they will be able to submit 1 PowerPoint slide and present it to receive feedback prior to the summative presentation.