Loss reducer is an 'app'  for exploring and visualising some of the complexities of decision making for loss reduction. Deciding on the best options when seeking to invest in reducing losses is usually a complex process especially when losses occur along a postharvest chain and there are potentially many types of intervention that could be applied at several different locations in the chain. The question is, "Which interventions at which locations will be most effective given the resources available?".

Loss reducer allows you to test your choice of scenarios, and visualise on graphs the impact of your decisions and assumptions. It is a didactic tool that models postharvest loss reduction interventions in order to develop a better understanding of the losses along the postharvest chain, and of the value of possible interventions to reduce them. It will be particularly useful for those wishing to implement loss reduction projects.

For an explanation of the Loss reducer controls read on below.  If you would like to see an example of how the can can be used click here.  To access Loss reducer itself, click on the image below

Screen shot 1

Loss reducer, an app for loss reduction decision making (click on image to enter app)

Background to Loss reducer

Loss reduction offers an exceptional opportunity to conserve resources. This is achieved when a target group of people adopt improvements in practices and/or technologies. The extent to which the adoption of improvements occurs is one of the factors determining the scale of loss reduction achieved.  Adoption of improvements is sometimes spontaneous but more often there are development projects implemented by national or international agencies that seek to promote adoption. For such projects, loss reduction is essentially a process of careful investment to achieve a desired level of adoption.

Generally, the level of adoption achieved is not linear with increasing investment but instead there is a lower threshold below which investment results in a negligible adoption rate and a higher threshold above which adoption proceeds at an exceptionally high pace ('cascade' or 'snow-ball effect'). The loss reduction achieved is a function of the adoption rate of the improvements and efficiency with which the improvements can actually reduce losses.

Loss reducer is not intended to make decisions for you but it does show you some of the important issues that should be considered when making investments in loss reduction, i.e. it is a training aid not an implementation tool. The app is based around part of the postharvest chain for cereal grain, from the time of cereal harvest to the time that grain reaches storage at market. However, it demonstrates general principles that are likely to be similar for the postharvest chains of many crops.

Loss reducer controls

Loss reducer has a left hand panel where the user can experiment with investments in loss reduction and a right hand panel where the corresponding changes in loss values are displayed.  In the left hand panel there are three variables that the user can adjust, these correspond to the characteristics of the intervention being tested (these can be assumptions). The values can be changed by operating three different 'sliders'. These sliders can be seen in the screen shot below of the left hand panel of the app. The panel has 8 windows that can either be minimised to their title bar or displayed. Each window corresponds to a link in the postharvest chain. For each link, an intervention can be designed using individual values for the three variables (i.e. individual assumptions).

By default, Loss reducer shows the % loss at each link in the postharvest chain, with figures taken from a typical loss profile in APHLIS. When the sliders are adjusted the user can then visualise the effect of loss
reduction interventions on the loss profile value.

Screen shot 2       

Left hand panel of Loss reducer with one link of the postharvest chain open to show the ‘sliders’ and graph that are used to model loss reduction interventions

The three sliders are defined as follows -

1. 'Efficiency' – this defines the limitations of a technology to reduce losses. It can be set at 100, meaning a complete reduction of losses at this link of the chain or, at say, only '50' meaning that however well applied the technology can only reduce losses by 50%.

2. 'Adoption rate' - this is the changing rate of return on investment in loss reduction that comes from a greater degree of adoption of an existing technology or switch from a less effective to a more effective technology. The 'Adoption rate' has two buttons within the slider as follows -

         a. The left hand button sets the point at which adoption will start to have a noticeable effect on loss reduction (there has to be a critical mass of adoption to propel an initiative forward).

         b. The right hand button defines a 'tipping point' at which there is a very rapid increase in return on investment as adoption becomes self-perpetuating.

3. 'Investment' – this is the investment you are making in the intervention.  It can be seen as the amount of money spent,
as a percentage of the total amount needed to reduce the losses completely at this particular link (the other 2 variables allowing) or as the use of resources to facilitate the adoption of new behaviours or new technologies, where the position of the slider indicates resources used to achieve adoption with a certain % of the target group. The use of the sliders will show that greater investmant will not automatically lead to reduced losses but is dependent on the other two parameters.  In the real world, estimating the investment required to achieve adoption is a complex issue and requires multidisciplinary inputs, considerable experience and  much thought. Furthermore, those investments should not exceed the value of grain saved. An important purpose of the app is to help practitioners think about the scale of investment required to achieve necessary adoption rates, i.e. where to set this slider. On the right hand panel of the app (see image below) there are graphical displays of the amount of original mature crop that remains following losses at each link of the chain (green bars), the overall cumulative losses and extent of losses at each link of the chain (red bars) and loss reduction (pink bars). All these bars change as loss reduction interventions are implemented by the app user in the left hand panel.

App 3

Right hand panel of Loss reducer displaying remaining crop (green bars), % weight losses(red bars) and degree of loss reduction (pink bars)