By Roi Lomotan
The Silliman University – Nutrition and Dietetics Department (SUNDD) opened its food laboratory to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSMES) engaged in food industry who seek assistance in improving and developing their products in Negros Oriental.
On Sept. 27, SUNDD together with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Negros Oriental officially launched the SUNND- DOST Food Laboratory located inside the university.
The event was attended by university officials led by SU President Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann, DOST-7 Assistant Regional Director Engr. Jesus Zamora, DOST-Negros Oriental team headed by Provincial Director Engr. Gilbert Arbon, and local partners of DOST.
The food laboratory is equipped with pulverizer, blender or grinder, moisture analyzer, vacuum sealer, band sealer, dryer, refractometer, water activity meter, and PH meter.
The food laboratory aims to support the local food processing industry including community-based livelihood groups with enterprise development services related to product strategy development and product design and development including scientific research or testing, technology training, information and advisory services, and kitchen – scale trial productions.
“We have product development, we also have product testing, we can check the shelf life of your food, the PH, the moisture of your product, and we can also help you develop your food,” said Asst. Prof. Jin Genove, chairperson of HE-ND Department of Silliman University.
“The packaging, that is in partnership with Foundation University. They have two faculties there who are trained in packaging. Whenever it’s about packaging design, we ask their help,” she added.
Genove explained that MSMEs can approach SUNDD and have a consultation meeting with them and the department will assign one faculty member who will be the director of the said project.
The food laboratory is a joint endeavour of SUNDD and DOST under the Grants in Aid (GIA) Project.
It was SUNDD who submitted the proposal to DOST and it was the department that granted the equipment estimated to cost P500,000.
SU official Dr. Michele Naranjo said the idea for the establishment of a food laboratory came after the university and DOST had initial talks on how to help food establishments in Negros Oriental.
Based on the business name registration data of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), there are more than 2,000 food processing enterprises in the province and most of them are MSMEs.
“These food processors do not do product development mainly due to lack of resources and most of their products may be described as traditional, copycat or generic. MSMEs are therefore most vulnerable to competition from foreign firms especially now where is an integrated ASEAN market,” Naranjo explained.
“With new acquisitions of equipment, it is our hope that our students, our partners, our MSMEs, our stakeholders will avail of the food technology expert services via training, consultancy, and product development program that will improve capabilities and will enable us to be more creative in developing new recipes or product formulation which you can use to start or improve your business,” She elaborated.
Meanwhile, DOST-7 Assistant Regional Director Engr. Jesus Zamora expressed his support to the project noting that the department is just “sowing seeds” and it gave his assurance that DOST will provide more assistance to the academic institution.
Zamora also urged the university to link up with its Food Innovation Centers (FIC) to for further assistance and development.
Aside from helping MSMEs, the food laboratory will also be utilized to enhance food research and development know-how of SUNND faculty and staff through training or consultancy.