Transforming seaweed into savings through science and technology

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Seaweed farming has long been a reliable source of income for coastal communities in the Philippines; fringed by waters of the Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf, the city of Zamboanga is no stranger to the seaweed trade.

Only recently, four (4) communities in the city, namely barangays of Sta. Catalina, Mampang, Arena Blanco, and Tigtabon have moved to adopt technologies that target seaweed efficient drying process and quality dried seaweed. 

The Gap

While seaweed type is a factor in determining value, the quality of the dried seaweed is what ultimately dictates price.

The current drying practice, which is basically open area sun-drying, can take up to a number of days, and puts the seaweeds at the mercy of the elements. Farmers resort to covering or storing stocks at the first hint of rain or bad weather, which does little good for the dehydration process among others.

This usually translates to poor seaweed quality, which in turn greatly reduces the farmers’ command on the commodity’s price. 

The Intervention

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has developed a seaweed drying system that is capable of drying newly harvested stocks at a faster rate, while protecting the seaweeds from unpredictable weather.

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At present, 2 types of the solar seaweed drying tech are available: the floating-type, which stays on the water surface, allowing farmers to tow the structure close to their production area for faster harvesting, and the permanent-type, which doubles as a storehouse sturdy enough to withstand harsh weather conditions, and provide easy, all-around access for farmers.

The structures are also designed to reduce direct exposure to sand, dirt, and other contaminants usually contaminated during the harvesting and hauling of fresh seaweeds to the drying area.

Aside from the greenhouse/U-V treated sheets that cover both facilities, they are also fitted with built-in solar-powered exhaust fans for the quick and uniform drying of stocks.

At present, studies have shown the structures to be capable of drying two (2) tons of high quality fresh seaweeds in a matter of three (3) days, without any inconsistency in the production.

Through the Department of Science and Technology IX, the above mentioned communities can expect the technologies to be on their shores as early as the second quarter of 2020.

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