By Rudy de Guzman, S&T Media Service

Davao, a bustling metropolitan city in Mindanao, is a central hub of business activity; the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) set up the Davao Food Processing Innovation Center (FPIC), a facility aimed at helping micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) improve their productivity and market competitiveness.

The FPIC is a DOST initiative that provides technical assistance in product development, food processing, packaging, and labeling; and financial assistance for capital outlay in purchasing modern machinery and for operation.

The modern facility is under the DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program or SETUP, a development program aimed at strengthening the competitive advantage of local enterprises, increasing productivity, and maximizing
efficiency and income potential.

“With this food innovation center, we are able to maximize the use of our local raw materials by turning ordinary agricultural crops into high value food products that our MSMEs can now sell in big malls and supermarkets in cities all over the region and even export them to other countries,” said DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo.

The Davao FPIC, inaugurated in 2014, was the first facility of its kind established in the country. It is located inside the Philippine Women’s College campus in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Inside the facility are state-of-the-art locally developed and fabricated modern food processing equipment like the water retort, vacuum fryer, spray dryer, freeze dryer, and vacuum sealer.

The fabrication of modern food processing equipment substantially lowers the cost of production for the MSMEs compared with buying the machines abroad. At the same time, by adopting the locally made equipment, the MSMEs are assured of readily available parts for maintenance and upgrading.

The creation of the Davao FPIC has already benefitted a number of small business entrepreneurs in the different provinces by giving them a venue to develop unique and highly marketable food products. With the new machines introduced, production capacity increased and the production process was streamlined for greater efficiency.

Likewise, increased economic activity in the areas where the FPICs are located results in an increase in employment opportunities in the countryside “Our local food manufacturers can now compete [head to head] with other producers around the world because of the improved quality standard of locally made and unique food products, and this will translate into improved revenues for the MSMEs and jobs for people in the nearby communities,” stated DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara.

For example, the water retort allows for the processing of agricultural crops like vegetables and fruits into other food variants. Examples are durian chips and powdered carrot drink that can be sold at much higher prices. At the same time, this lessens wastage and increases product recovery through safe and tested procedures.

Other food products developed in the FPIC are: thermally processed laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk), tuna congee in tetra packs, and banana blossom (adobo flavoringa); spray dried bignay (berries); and vacuum fried mango chips, durian, and banana chips (barbeque and cheese flavor).

Other FPIC-developed food products are: freeze dried durian; carrot-calamansi and carrot-pineapple powdered drink made using the spray dryer; spray-dried carrot; calamansi-sweet potato leaves powdered drink under the CoolAce brand; gourmet tuyo (dried herring); and spray dried atsuete (annatto).

The Davao FPIC, serving mainly as a research and development hub, is able to generate new food products, thereby giving MSMEs the chance to explore untapped markets for its wide range of choices.

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“I am very thankful to the DOST and its regional office here in Davao because they are very accommodating, from the guard to its staff, and specially [the] director [of] sales who are now helping us improve our product, Lachi’s special laing, so we can sell them in bottles that will have a longer shelf life. They are assisting us every step of the way as we look forward to acquiring the water retort that will help us get the certifications we need for our products,” said Mateo Ty of Lachi’s Dessert Bakery, Inc., a DOST-assisted entrepreneur.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2016 issue.