Building a mini packing house from a shipping container: Affordable facility for sorting, packaging and storage of fresh produce


This poster was presented by Ramadhani Majubwa at the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2019, as part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on building postharvest capacity in Tanzania. The poster reviews the construction of miniature packing houses made from used shipping containers, as a low-cost facility to reduce postharvest losses in Tanzania.

The poster includes the background, objectives, construction, costs, and uses of the container and cooler. Excerpts from the poster:


  • Tanzania is one of the least developed countries located in the eastern part of Africa endowed with potential climatic conditions for production of different horticultural crops.
  • Farmers in Tanzania experience a postharvest loss of 20–50 percent depending on crop due to poor handling practices and limited availability of packing and cooling facilities.
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in collaboration with Kansas State University (KSU), and University of Florida (UF) has designed and established an affordable mini packing house from used marine shipping containers to reduce infrastructure and cost barriers.

Project objectives

  • To develop a blueprint and establish type and amount of locally available materials for construction of a mini pack-house with cold rooms
  • To establish a mini-pack house with cold rooms for improvement of produce handling
  • To improve the knowledge and skill base of rowers, traders, and students on good postharvest handling practices through training using the mini pack house

Construction of the packinghouse, costs, and uses

Key steps in construction included establishing ground measurements, trench making for establishment of the foundation, aligning blocks on the foundation, creating concrete base to which the containers will be alighted on, and welding work on the used marine shipping containers, fitting Coolbot to the AC in cool rooms for enhance cooling capacity

Main considerations for building a cool room include quality of the insulation materials, room size, and air condition type and capacity.

Total estimated cost for fabrication of the mini pack house unit, excluding the cost of marine shipping containers, plumbing work, and electricity installation was $8,150. The current unit price for shipping containers is estimated at an additional $795 each.

The unit is expected to be used for:

  • Handling of fruits and vegetables produced at the Training Model farm
  • MSc. and BSc Horticulture students’ research projects
  • Instructors’ research

By December 2018, 86 students seeking bachelor's degrees in horticulture were taking a postharvest physiology and management course. The unit also hosted training for 60 trainers and more than 100 farmers.

Limitations of the mini-pack house include:

  • cold room needs reliable source of electric power (solar or others)
  • poor control of relative humidity, hence need humidifier or frequent misting
  • potentially too expensive for individual small-scale farmers



Value Chain

Postharvest practices