PhilMech eyes completion of postharvest system for ‘pinakbet’ vegetables

THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is eyeing the development of a package of postharvest technologies for lowland or “pinakbet” vegetables, which is a source of livelihood for thousands of farmers living at the plains.

PhilMech Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing said that lowland vegetables need a complete package of postharvest technologies or a complete supply chain system to reduce losses after harvest, which can reach as high as 25% for non-leafy types, and up to 45% for leafy vegetables.

And since these vegetables are mostly grown at the lowlands, these are subject to higher ambient temperature compared to highland vegetables, during or right after harvest.

“The exposure of newly-harvested lowland vegetables to high temperature  after harvest could lead to its faster deterioration, and more postharvest losses,” Bingabing said.

PhilMech is presently generating an industry situationer which will the basis to  develop a complete supply chain system for lowland vegetables, but it has identified tomato, eggplant and bitter gourd or ampalaya as the major lowland vegetables being grown by farmers.

The study/research will also pilot test existing postharvest technologies designed to address postharvest deficiencies of the present supply chain for lowland vegetables.

From its past research efforts, PhilMech has developed an evaporative cooler that can maintain the freshness of newly harvested vegetables for three to four days.

Bingabing said that the PhilMech-developed evaporative cooling system is a non-refrigerated system that uses much lesser power compared to refrigerated systems.
It works with charcoal as a cooling pad and has a water reservoir, submersible pump, fan and storage chamber.  The evaporative cooler channels air to the wet pad surfaces and lets water evaporate into the air, which reduces heat and lowers temperature in the storage chamber. It is powered by electricity and uses water as the cooling medium.

The cabinet-type evaporative cooler can store up to 400 kilograms of vegetables and fruits, and the display type up to 80 kilograms.

PhilMech will also test a water treatment system for vegetables and fruits as a postharvest technology for decontamination.

“The project generally aims to produce and utilize activated water in decontaminating and extending the shelf life of vegetables,” a PhilMech project briefer on the study said.

The objective of the water treatment is to remove pathogens and other bacteria from the surface of newly-harvested vegetables to extend shelf life, and make these more safe for human consumption.

Bingabing said that completing the postharvest system for lowland vegetables, from harvest to storage, is part of PhilMech’s efforts to help farmers increase their incomes.

“Reducing the postharvest losses of lowland vegetables to as low as 5% to 15% can help farmers increase their earnings,” he added.

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