Marginalized fishermen, food processors in Misamis Oriental get P 1M DOST funding

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) in Misamis Oriental provided financial assistance amounting to PhP 1,065,300 to the local government of Alubijid for its two projects under the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program on 22 September 2020.

CEST is one of the flagship programs of the DOST being implemented by its regional offices in tandem with the various DOST agencies and institutes. The program addresses the needs of communities in five entry points: health and nutrition, basic education, livelihood and enterprise development, water and sanitation, and disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

The first project, entitled “Upgrading of Community Food Processing Facility in Barangay Baybay, Alubijid, Misamis Oriental – D2”, is seen to benefit the Alubijid Foods Inc. (AFI). AFI is a group of food processors in Alubijid and a recipient of a CEST project in 2017. Recently, they received consultancy services to acquire a License to Operate certificate from the Food and Drug Administration, additional packaging and labeling interventions, and upgrading of food processing equipment.

Daghan kaayo salamat sa DOST nga gibulig gayud sa amo gikan pa sauna hangtud karon. Wala gyud mo nagkulang sa mga support bisan pa man sa kakulian karon sa pandemic, naa lang gihapon mo hangtud karon. (Many thanks to DOST for its support to us since then. The agency never failed to support us even in this time of pandemic.),” said Elvie M. Labis, president of AFI.

The second project is the new and improved fish drying facility for the Baybay Aquatic Fishermen Organization (BAFO), a registered group of fisherfolks in the municipality. A Solar Tunnel Dryer and Dehydrator, a safer way for fish preservation, will be turned-over to the proponents as an alternative to sun drying. The project also includes training on current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), capability training, laboratory tests, and initial packaging and labeling support.

Salamat gyud (DOST) kay ang among pangandoy, ang among gipangayo sauna kawayan ra para bularan sa isda. Pasalamat mi kay naa pa diay labaw pa ato nga dili kawayan ang moabot sa amo. (Thank you so much to DOST. We only asked for bamboo as means to dry our fish, but DOST was able to grant us equipment that is much better than we expected.),” said Pedro D. Momo, BAFO president.

The funds for the two projects in LGU-Alubijid came from the allotted prize (project proposal-based) awarded to the proponents as the Best CEST Community in Region X during the celebration of the 2019 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW). Implementation of these projects will help promote more economic development activities in the municipality and is expected to uplift the socio-economic status of the said marginalized communities.

Pasalamat kay Ma’am Beng ug sa kauban sa DOST. Kini makahatag gayud ug dakong kaayuhan sa among fisherfolks dinhi sa lungsod sa Alubijid. Hinaot unta nga magpadayon pa ang suporta sa amo. Daghan Kaayong Salamat. (I thank Ms. Beng Ruiz and all the staff of DOST. These projects bring about great help to our fisherfolks in Alubijid. We hope that you continue to support us. Thank you very much.),” said LGU-Alubijid Mayor Emmanuel L. Jamis.By Dayne Prin Talan, PSTC-Misamis Oriental

Check turned-over by Engr. Junelyn Louvena B. Ruiz, PSTC Director Misamis Oriental to Hon. Mayor Emmanuel L. Jamis of LGU-Alubijid, along with the Project Focal Persons and Project Beneficiary Groups AFI and BAFO. (Photo from PSTC-Misamis Oriental)

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New and inexpensive test kits, alternative broadcast spectrum
for distance learning highlight DOST report

A new device in detecting Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) is in the works while unused digital broadcast spectrum as alternative to datacasting to help in the distance learning were the highlight of the latest Department of Science and Technology (DOST) weekly report.

In his latest dispatch, DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said that the project will develop the microfluidic miniaturized PCR device (miPCR) for SARS-Cov-2 RNA amplification via FDA approved Covid-19 RT-PCR kits.

The project will help in developing a faster and cost-effective alternative to the RT-PCR test kits that are now being used by hospitals to detect Covid-19.

The project is funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

On the other hand, the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development rolls-out the technologies providing a seamless distance learning tool in the new normal.

In particular, DOST-PCIEERD through the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) is working on RuralSync- a project that enables the development of digital contents to remote communities using opportunistic spectrum access or operating on unused licensed spectrum from various television networks without affecting the broadcast.

According to Secretary de la Peña, the project will complement and enhance the current distance learning program of the Department of Education.

Recent news reports also showed the need to develop more outlets to deliver learning materials to students because of slow internet connectivity and the lack of electronic devices and learning materials that affect the students’ performance in class.  

Meanwhile, 13 research fellows and interns graduated from the two-year training course under the Policy and Systems Research Fellowship and Internship program.  

The program is a joint initiative by the DOST-PCHRD and the Department of Health.

The program aims to train young professionals in conceptualizing, developing, implementing, and communicating health research that has significance in the national and global health field. It also targets to help produce research-based outputs to aid policy making and legislations in support of the health sector.

Furthermore, the program aims to establish a pool of young experts in areas of health system research, policy, data analysis, research communication and management.

Finally, with the difficulties in conducting surveys, DOST also developed the Automated Electronic Survey System (AESS). The system enables institutions and organizations to have a platform in conducting surveys. The AESS is cost-effective compared to paper-based data collection and processing since it provides reusable standards base transparent framework of protocols.

“Ngayon kasi ang hirap magsurvey ng ikaw ay lalabas pa or face-to-face,” says de la Peña. With the survey system, organizations can now conduct surveys without the need for face-to-face interaction with the interviewees. 

The DOST Report is a weekly broadcast of the Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-STII) that highlights the various initiatives and innovations of the DOST aired live every Friday through the DOSTv Facebook page and Youtube channel.

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Enhanced-nutribun: Good for both undernourished and healthy Pinoys
Nearly fifty years after the “nutribun” came out in the 1970’s as a part of the government’s feeding program, the current Philippine government has now developed an enhanced version of the bun to address hunger brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But just how enhanced is DOST’s enhanced nutribun – which it developed in response to the call of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Feeding Program During Community Quarantine or Other Similar Emergencies.

Nutrition in a bun. Nutrition-wise, the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s (DOST-FNRI) enhanced version answers the children’s need for micronutrients, energy, and protein requirements.

Unlike the largely wheat-based nutribun of the 1970’s, mainly produced for the undernourished [children] sector of the population, the enhanced version can also be consumed by healthy Pinoys. The enhanced nutribun is made from squash that is rich in vitamin A, a nutrient that is commonly lacking in the regular meal of Filipino children.

Based on the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey, children aged 6-9 years old have 63.1% vitamin A inadequacy, while those in the 10-12 years old bracket have 76.1% vitamin inadequacy.

The Enhanced Nutribun has more micronutrients like iron and vitamin A. The texture is softer and weighs 160- 165 grams per piece, which makes it easier for children to hold and bite. Each serving has 504 calories, 17.8 grams protein, 6.08 milligrams iron and 244 micrograms vitamin A. A piece of enhanced nutribun already provides 60% of requirements for vitamin A.

“The product is not only good for young children but also for the other population groups, particularly, pregnant and lactating women, and our senior citizens. Even the well and healthy population need products like the enhanced nutribun. It tastes good, and we are not limiting consumption to the undernourished. You may taste it to believe us, then look at the nutrition label,” Engr. Rosemarie G. Garcia, Chief Science Research Specialist of DOST-FNRI, said.

A bun made by Filipino nutrition experts. In a story published by Esquire two years ago, on “A History of the Nutribun, the Well-Intentioned Bread from the ’70s,” the Philippine government’s Nutribun program happened this way: the U.S. through its Food for Peace program facilitated the donations of wheat flour and non-fat dry milk powder as the primary ingredients for the Nutribun program of the Philippines. Ruben William Engel, a Nutrition Advisor at the time, and his team of nutritionists working for USAID Nutrition, developed the bread formulation. The U.S. Wheat Associates provided technical assistance to the local bakeries handling the production of the Nutribun. Each bun had 500 calories and 17 grams protein.

The current formulation, however, is done by an all-Filipino team from DOST-FNRI. They started reformulating enhanced nutribun from the original formulation of squash bread, which the Institute developed way back in 2003. It was not copied from any foreign formulation. It was developed by Filipinos for Filipino consumers focusing on the needs of school age children, 6-9 years old.

While there are other products, the bun instead, is being used to address the nutrition problem. A liquid product is more difficult to distribute than a solid, and multivitamins are usually synthetic. Thus, the nutribun. According to FNRI, based on the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey, covering 14,556 school-age children, bread or pandesal is the top five food source of the total energy intake. And in developing any product to address a nutritional problem, the one which is the most commonly consumed should be used.

There are specific nutritional problems that the enhanced nutribun is targeting, and it uses a local vegetable as one of main ingredients, of which there are plenty in the Philippines.

The ‘public good’ bun technology is free for local entreps.  The technology on the production of enhanced nutribun is a “public good technology” and it is available for entrepreneurs. DOST-FNRI will give it for free to qualified entrepreneurs who has technical capability to commercially produce the product (i.e. with a GMP compliant facility or working towards it, willing to invest in equipment and raw materials), and has a legal identity (a registered and taxpaying company, etc).

During the enhanced nutribun’s soft-launch last July 2020, there were three potential technology adopters: Century Pacific Corporation; Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation (NFMC) and Aretei Foods Corporation. More has been added to the list since then.

Both Nutridense Corporation and Aretei Foods Corporation have already signed licensing agreement with DOST-FNRI. They were both trained on the production. NFMC started the operation in their newly built facility on 07 October 2020 and have received orders since then. Aretei Food Corporation, on the other hand, is still producing their puree at FNRI, but it has also started receiving orders for this.

Because of their belief on the benefits of the bun, NFMC even donated 250 enhanced nutribun to a locked-down barangay in Pangasinan during that time.
Also, in October, Regions II and IV-A conducted virtual tech transfer training, virtual site visits, and ocular inspection for the technology adopters of Enhanced Nutribun. In Region II, there are four licensees: the AJ’s Bread and Pastries; J.A. Fruits and Vegetable Processing; Quirino Livelihood for Everyone (Q-life); and J’s Bakeshop & Delicacies.

In Region IV-A, there are 14, the Gem See’s Cakeshop; Swisspharma Research Laboratories Inc.; San Jose Workers MPC; MRG Food Products/Malou’s Bakery; Magifrance Bakeshop and Café; Doughpro Manufacturing & Trading Corp.; LGU-Mauban, Quezon Province; Panaderia Pantoja, Inc.; Golden Wheat Bakery; El Richard Bakery; Anica’s Home Bread Store; Momilo Mio; Congw. Angelina “Helen” D.L. Tan, MD; and Amira’s Buco Tart Haus.

Since there is no more charge for technology licensing, the primary cost will only be the setting up of the facility and the purchase of equipment that will largely depend on the scale of production. DOST-FNRI’s pilot plant engineers will assist the entrepreneurs in terms of the plant lay out and the listing of equipment to be purchased.

Based on the assumptions and computation of the Institute’s engineers, the return on investment in enhanced nutribun is more than 30% with payback period of 2-2.5 years.

Entrep’s experience with DOST technologies.  Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation (NFMC) was among the first three to sign up for the Enhanced-Nutribun technology of DOST-FNRI.

Racky Doktor, owner of NFMC, said their company, which has a mission of helping reduce malnutrition through production and distribution of research-based food technologies, signed up immediately after learning about the Enhanced Nutribun because the product is very nutritious, timely, and needed by both children and adults.

Racky Doktor, owner of Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation, shows off the enhanced nutribun that is now commercially available. (image grab from FB page of NFMC)
NFMC officially opened their nutribun facility on 26 October 2020 which signifies their readiness to cater to the needs of DepEd and DSWD Feeding Programs. However, Doktor also sees an opportunity in offering a nutrient-filled bread to the general populace, so they can also avail of its nutritional benefits, especially in this time of pandemic. Aside from distributing in Pangasinan, where their plant is located, the company also plans to supply other areas to the extent that their capacity will allow.

Enhanced Nutribun
 The enhanced nutribun, likewise, contributes to the labor force of NFMC, with the 24 employees added, so as not to affect their existing production of other products. They will also be needing additional staff for deliveries as order begin to come in. The buns will be distributed via direct delivery, thru distributors, via online or pick-up from NFMC office at Malanay, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan.

Weighing each bun before putting them in individual packs ready for shipping.
 Being an adopter of several DOST technologies, Doktor advises those who plan to get into business using locally developed technologies, such as the OFW’s, the retirees, or any regular Filipino with these: “First, personal discernment of why an investor should go into an investment is a must. Second, investing into a developed technology is an advantage. Third, locally developed technologies yield better results.”

Estimated 1M children to benefit from DOST enhanced nutribun. In the ’70s, 30 million nutribuns were given to 200,000 children. However, DOST-FNRI cannot give the exact number of children who will benefit from its enhanced nutribun since the distribution will depend on DSWD, DepEd and the LGUs. Garcia said the Institute’s rough and conservative estimate is that 1 million children may benefit from the product.

“We have more malnourished children now, than in the 70’s,” Garcia said.

DOST-FNRI is a research and development institute that develops the product and transfers it to partners who commercialize the product, who in turn bring these to the intended consumers. For the enhanced nutribun, DepEd, DSWD and DTI expressed support for the product. In fact, DepEd and DSWD have already set aside the funds to give the products to the children for free through their school and supplementary feeding programs, respectively.

DOST-FNRI is inviting Filipinos, especially those who are in business, to partner with them in  commercializing and producing the enhanced nutribun, and to bring it not only to school children but to all those who want nutrition in a bun! (S&T media service, Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin)