New mango drying system set for commercial testing

THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) has set for commercial testing next year a revolutionary mango drying system that is more energy efficient and less costly than the method being used today by the industry.

Sliced dried mangoes are one of the leading products of the local mango industry and form part of Philippine processed mango exports. Of the $35 million in mango exports in 2010, processed mango products comprised only 10%.

“Based on research by PhilMech, the local mango industry is constrained by limited drying capacity to achieve maximum production. And the industry must take advantage of the peak harvest season from March to April to produce as much dried mangoes, which has a growing export demand,” said PhilMech Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing.

The research entitled “Development of Pilot-Scale Conveyor Dryer for Mango Slices Using Combined Far-Infrared and Convection Heating (FIRCH),” was undertaken by PhilMech researchers Robelyn E. Daquila and Dr. Romualdo C. Martinez.

At present, the mango industry uses convection heating to dry mangoes. The process involves circulating heated air to dry various food products. Direct sun drying of mango slices is not an industry practice.

However, drying mangoes using convection heating requires 12 hours, which results to a higher energy consumption, the PhilMech researchers said.

The researchers undertook studies and tests by combining convection heating with far-infrared heating, which resulted in a reduction of drying time to 8 hours and energy savings. The fabrication of the equipment for the combined far-infrared and convection heating (FIRCH) was done by PhilMech scientists and engineers.

The researchers said that by using FIRCH method, newly sliced mangoes could be dried in eight hours in two stages: for two hours using infra-red heating; and 6 hours using convection heating. A good example of infrared heat is the heat generated by the sun.

Based on the findings of Daquila and Martinez, using the FIRCH method to dry mango slices resulted to a 17% reduction in energy consumption and 32% reduction in overall drying costs, compared to the convection method.

The reduction of drying time by 33% or from 12 hours to 8 hours can also allow the drying of a bigger volume of mango slices.

The beta-carotene content of mango slices dried using the FIRCH method was also higher by 40% compared to the slices dried using convection heating.

Bingabing said that the commercial testing of the PhilMech-developed FIRCH mango drying machine will be an important step toward its eventual commercialization.

“Again, PhilMech has demonstrated how Filipino know-how and ingenuity could be tapped to develop technologies and machines to improve the food processing industry in the country,” he added.

While the Philippines is known as the producer of the best dried mango slices in the world, other countries like Thailand, Indonesia and China are also into exporting processed mango products.

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