By Rudy de Guzman, S&T Media Service

Have you tried thermally processed laing or tuna congee? Or have you heard about vacuum fried mango or freeze-dried durian?

Yes, you heard it right. These new and unique food products can now be manufactured locally using sophisticated yet locally fabricated machinery and equipment that Filipino scientists and engineers designed and developed right here in our own backyard.

These powerful food processing machines in shiny stainless steel frames and molds were developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to equip the newly operated Davao Food Processing Innovation Center (FPIC). The machinery is its distinct advantage over other food manufacturers.

The Davao FPIC serves as a research and development center to assist micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) in Davao and the entire region in raising their productivity through mechanization. The FPIC is housed inside the Davao campus of the Philippine Women’s College in Matina, Davao City. The facility serves as a virtual food processing laboratory for MSMEs to cultivate their innovative capacities to level up in their search for their niche in the highly competitive food industry.

The FPIC will primarily cater to the  agricultural and fisheries sector. “I am very pleased and happy that this food processing innovation center is now operational because we can now help our small and medium entrepreneurs in the provinces improve their products and, with the R&D (research and development) activity in the center, we can also assist them in coming up with unique food products,” said DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara during her recent visit to the center.

The modern facility offers many services to MSMEs like product development, equipment rental, technical consultancy, and technology training, and it is open five days a week. Special accommodations can also be done on Saturdays and Sundays including holidays if the need arises to fully support the MSMEs. The machinery used in the facility include the following: vacuum fryer, spray dryer,  vacuum sealer, freeze dryer, band sealer, and water retort. All of the equipment is fabricated locally by Filipino scientists and engineers trained by the DOST and its partner institutions.

The facility has a number of food processing machinery that are readily made available to local entrepreneurs

The vacuum fryer reduces fat absorption by as much as 42% by using low temperatures, resulting in high quality fried fruit and vegetable products. The spray dryer, on the other hand, transforms agricultural products like carrots and calamansi into powder form as the machine’s atomizer breaks liquid samples into small particles that are dried upon contact with hot air.

The freeze dryer removes moisture while maintaining cellular integrity, thereby preserving highly perishable produce forlonger periods. The water retort is also useful as it sterilizes food packaged in hermetically sealed containers like those in retort pouches, cans, bottles, and jars. Products that use this technology include dried tuyo (herring), laing (a native Bicolano dish of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk), and sardines.

The vacuum sealer is used for any type of plastic packaging and results in an optimum seal and quality performance due to its accurate and consistent sealing temperature. “With the full operation of the FPIC, the DOST [goes] the extra mile by providing both technical and financial support to our MSMEs in the region, and in the process, we are able to empower them to come up with different food products that pass international standards that are highly in demand locally and abroad,” stated DOST Region 11 Director Dr. Anthony C. Sales.

The machinery can rented for a certain price per hour

To further encourage MSMEs to use the FPIC, the center rents out the equipment at minimal fees for start-up entrepreneurs that are into the food processing business. Initially, the fees for the use of the equipment for research and development and product testing are pegged at minimal levels to encourage more MSMEs to create food products that have good market potential.

The spray dryer can be rented for just Php420 per hour; the freeze dryer, for Php400 per hour; the vacuum fryer can be used for only Php400 per hour and the water retort for Php270 per hour. For packaging, the vacuum sealer is rented out at Php150 per hour and the band sealer at Php105 per hour. For storage facilities, the chest freezer can be used for only Php25 an hour.

MSMEs with new ideas for food products are invited to avail themselves of the facilities in the Davao FPIC inside the Philippine Women’s College of Davao, University Avenue, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City. They can be contacted at telephone numbers (082) 297-8035 local 305/481 or email at fpic.davao@gmail.com; look for Maribeth A. Saporas.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2016 issue.