PhilMech pushing MCSTD for drying fish, SME dev’t

THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, is encouraging more enterprises involved in the production of dried fish to invest in multi-commodity solar tunnel driers (MCSTDs) to vastly improve the quality their products and improve their operations.

PhilMech is making the recommendation because many dried fish producers, mostly those involved in small- or medium-scale production, dry their fish on mats laid out on the road or in areas that are hardly clean. Such practices could result in dried fish being contaminated with fungi, bacteria and mites.

PhilMech Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing said that the agency is also pushing for the wider use of the MCSTDs to help in the government’s efforts to promote the development of small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), particularly those based in the countryside that are into processing food.

Bingabing added that the PhilMech-designed MCSTD could help farmers and fisher folk prepare for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) common market on 2015, where farm commodities, among others, will have lowered tariffs.

“With farm products from other Asean nations entering the Philippines, farmers and fisher folk should find ways to improve the efficiency of their operations, and quality of their produce to remain competitive,” he further said.

Among the commodities that could be dried using MCSTD are nuts, bananas, cassava and mushroom. PhilMech is also testing the use of the multi-commodity solar tunnel drier on other farm commodities. The PhilMech director cited a group in Marinduque that uses MCSTD to dry rimas (breadfruit) for flour production.

For dried fish, Bingabing said that using MCSTD will allow dried fish producers to reduce drying time by up to 25% and improve quality since the fish being dried are not exposed to the air.

Aside from using multi-commodity solar tunnel driers, PhilMech will formulate interventions such as informing and educating fish processors to undertake steps to improve sanitary standards in the procedures of producing dried and smoked fish.

He added that fish dried by using MCTSD and attractively packaged can attract high-end buyers in the domestic and export market.

Bingabing cited the example of Keno Foods Inc. in Bustos, Bulacan that has been using an MCSTD to produce dried tilapia known as tilanggit.

The PhilMech-developed MCSTD is a modification of the solar tunnel dryer (STD) developed by researchers of the Hohenheim University in Germany.

The original STD used an industrial blower to circulate air in the drying chamber. PhilMech modified the STD by replacing the industrial blower with an axial fan, and using locally-available materials to lower cost.

An MCSTD costs between P180,000 to P230,000 depending on size or dimension.

Various designs of the solar tunnel drier are in use in over 60 countries, and PhilMech’s modified its design took into account the availability of locally available materials, reduced cost, and ease of construction and site installation.

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