VSU PhilRootcrops Unlad Award

VSU researchers led by VSU Vice President for Administration and Finance Dr. Daniel Leslie S. Tan took home the Unlad Award in the recently concluded Regional Invention Contest and Exhibit (RICE) 2021.

VP Tan’s winning team includes Engr. Mark Anthony R. Atanacio and Mr. Benjamin L. Cinto, Jr. who are both working as science research assistants of the Philippine Rootcrops Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops).

RICE is an annual event of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) implemented by its technology commercialization arm called Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI).

This virtual exhibition ran for four months that culminated with an awarding ceremony held on November 12, 2021.

RICE is an initiative that recognizes local inventions and research projects from different regions of the country that will soon compete in 2022 for a national competition to be held in Manila.

Dr. Tan and his team has successfully secured their spot in the national contest bringing home a cash prize of Php25,000 from DOST-TAPI.

A portable machine for the development of new food products

The winning regional entry of the PhilRootcrops researchers was a patented utility model called the Portable Vacuum Fryer, which is an innovative and cost-efficient alternative over the conventional vacuum fryers widely used in the food industry today.

Vacuum fryers utilize vacuum pressure and low temperature frying, retaining the food item’s color and nutritional value while increasing its shelf-life. Commodities subjected to a vacuum fryer results in a much more attractive, nutritious and marketable food by-product.

However, conventional vacuum fryers come at a hefty price tag that can go as much as 1 million pesos to build.

Having the same capacity of 14 kilograms with conventional vacuum fryers, the portable version of this processing machine can be built at a cost of Php300,000 for single cylinder and Ph500,000 for dual cylinder version, cutting the production cost of up to half the price of a conventional vacuum fryer.

Portable Vacuum Dryer Dual CylinderPhoto showing the two versions of the Portable Vacuum Dryer with photo of the single cylinder version at the left while the dual cylinder at the right.

Dr. Tan, in an interview revealed that this DOST-PCAARRD funded project was not initially laid out for development, as they were primarily supposed to conduct a separate experiment that made use of other vacuum fryers.

“We were canvassing for equipment, we found one from DOST but it was too expensive. It was priced at over a million pesos. But we only had a budget of 700,000Php. So instead, we fabricated and made our own for that experiment. After tremendous research, we were able to make one that is not just comparable, but a much better version than the existing vacuum fryers in the market,” the lead researcher explained.

According to Dr. Tan, they were able to cut costs by eliminating the vacuum pump, the most expensive part of the system not just in raw cost but also in maintenance and operation.

This change in machine design would now remove the need for a heat exchanger to dissipate condensable gases, which is a detrimental factor in keeping the functionality and longevity of the vacuum pump.

The team then replaced it with an ordinary water pump to create a water-jet ejector system to generate vacuum—a workaround they later found to be better in comparison to the conventional system used in the available vacuum fryers in the market today.

The development of the Portable Vacuum Fryer began in 2014 and was finally patented as a utility model in 2019 after several years of tweaking.

The development of this portable machine was part of a bigger project of creating additional value chains for sweet potato products as a way of mainstreaming this local commodity.

But aside from sweet potato, Dr. Tan also noted that there are endless possibilities for the Portable Vacuum Fryer for many other commodities that are readily available in the market.

“Vacuum fryers are generic machines. It could be used almost anywhere, in any food item that could be fried could make use of its benefits. It has endless potentials especially on fruit and vegetable products,” the lead researcher concluded.

With current expansion for manufacturing licenses to Iloilo coupled with local negotiations taking place in the Cities of Ormoc and Baybay, there are now more concrete mass production plans for the Portable Vacuum Fryer in the future.

With micro and small enterprises (MSMEs) getting more interested to produce healthier food products because of a growing demand, there is a foreseen need for local fabrication of food processing equipment like the Portable Vacuum Fryer in the immediate future.

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