DOST’S food innovation centers to boost competitiveness of local food industry

By Aerol B. Patena

MANILA, Feb 22 (PNA) — The Philippine food manufacturing sector faces challenging times as it braces for the ASEAN economic integration in 2015 which would result to the lowering of trade barriers to enable the entry of food products from the country’s neighbors.

The local food industry must sustain its competitiveness and be at par with ASEAN countries by innovating and improving on their products.

However, food processors, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are having difficulty in setting up facilities that would help ensure the safety and quality of food products and preserve their shelf-life.

To address this concern, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has launched food innovation centers (FICs) that will further develop food processing in the country.

In an interview with the Philippines News Agency, Engineer Rey Esguerra, Deputy Director for Research and Development of the DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), said that FICs will help food processors develop products that will generate a strong demand in the ASEAN region.

Esguerra related that these facilities are part of the DOST’s High Impact Technology Solutions (HITs) program which aims to provide technological innovations in support of the growth and competitiveness of the country’s small and medium enterprises and improve the economic conditions of the Filipinos.

“FICs are common service facilities that will assist food manufacturing firms through providing local technologies to ensure the freshness and quality of their food products,” Engr. Esguerra said.

Meanwhile, DOST-ITDI Director Dr. Nuna Almanzor stated that the project aims to substitute the imported equipment with locally designed, developed and manufactured equipment.

“This project aims to locally design and fabricate food processing equipment and make our own technology work for our local industry needs. We also hope to do away with imports, which are always expensive, especially for the small and medium food processors, and those starting to put up their own businesses,” the ITDI Director said.

Seven equipment were designed and fabricated as an alternative to imported equipment.

Water retort is a cooking vessel capable of withstanding extreme pressures and designed to destroy all microbes to prolong shelf-life and make product safe.

Freeze dryer dehydrates heat sensitive materials through the sublimation process, or changing solid ice into gas, under vacuum conditions. This process preserves perishable items and makes them more convenient for transport. This equipment can be utilized in prolonging the shelf life of buko pie; vegetables, meat and fish for instant meals and soups; cheese; yoghurt; proteins; enzymes, etc.

Vacuum fryer is designed to fry food in deep fat under reduced pressure and in a closed system that lowers the boiling point of both oil and water in food. Vaccum fried foods include potato chips, durian, pineapple, kiwi, and others.

Spray dryer turns liquids into a spray of droplets, and then converts these droplets into powder. This equipment is used in making milk powder, coffee, spices, flavorings, medical ingredients, additives, and even paint pigments, ceramic materials, and others.

Vacuum packaging machine removes air before sealing food products in retort pouches.

Immersion freezer serves as a freezing agent for food products (meat, fish, fruits, vegetables) that are submerged in cold liquid.

Vacuum evaporator concentrates heat sensitive liquid food material such as herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Most of the equipment have already been tested in function and performance and the rest will be tested within this year.

DOST’s Project Management Engineering Design Service Office designed the equipment while the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC) was commissioned to fabricate the prototypes. On the other hand, DOST-ITDI provided performance testing for the equipment.

The equipment will be available for use at the food innovation centers in Region 2 at Cagayan State University, Region 5 at Bicol University, Region 6 at the DOST Regional Office 6 in Iloilo City, Region 8 at Eastern Visayas State University, Region 10 at Mindanao University of Science and Technology, and Region 11 at Philippine Women’s University.

The DOST aims to establish food innovation centers in every region that will come up with innovative and add-on products based on the major products in the region. (PNA)