Zambo’s solar-powered seaweed dryers inspired Bicolanos

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 18 May) – The solar-powered seaweed dryers being used by farmers in the Zamboanga Peninsula have impressed Bicolanos wanting to establish their own farms that the regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) there came over the weekend to check on the dryers.

DOST-V Regional Director Rommel Serrano (left) visits a seaweed farm in Zamboanga City to check on the solar-powered dryer being used by farmers in the region. With him are Ricardo Apolinario III, of DOST-IX, and seaweed farmer Isnarin Cana. Photo courtesy of DOST-IX

Ricardo Apolinario III, science and technology director of the DOST for Zamboanga and Isabela cities, said that the solar-powered dryers being used by the farmers can dry seaweeds in two to three days, compared to the usual 10 to 14 days when leaving it out in the sun.

Director Rommel Serrano, of DOST-V, said he checked the dryers in the seaweed farms because the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Bicol wanted to establish the seaweed industry in their area.

Apolinario told MindaNews that DOST-IX has installed 11 seaweed dryers in Zamboanga City, 7 in Zamboanga Sibugay, 2 in Zamboanga del Sur, and 4 in Zamboanga del Norte.

He said it was conceptualized and developed by Dr. Ronel S. Pangan, of the Center for Agri-Fisheries and Biosystems Mechanization (BIOMECH) at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños

According to Apolinario, Dr. Pangan’s main reason for developing the technology is “the low quality of seaweeds we export because of the impurities like sand and dirt” as it takes too long to dry the seaweeds. Pangan reportedly first piloted the dryer in Palawan.

The solar-powered seaweed dryer provides for a 24/7 operation of the exhaust fan to ensure that moisture inside the dryer is not absorbed back by the seaweeds, Apolinario noted.

He added that they have allocated P7.6 million for Grants-in-Aid (GIA) funds for the development of the region’s seaweed industry.

Apolinario said that in Zamboanga City, which has 709 seaweed farmers, they distributed dryers to Kasanyangan Nursery Seaweed Enterprises Inc., Maharlika Seaweeds Farmer Marketing Cooperative, and the barangay governments of Tigtabon, Mampang, Dita and Buenavista.

He said that in Zamboanga del Sur, with 150 seaweed farmers, dryers were given to Pagadian City and the municipality of Dumalinao.

In Zamboanga del Norte, having 1200 seaweed farmers, drying facilities were placed in the municipalities of Jose Dalman, Manukan, Rizal and Sindangan.

In Zamboanga Sibugay, with its 624 seaweed farmers, dryers were given to the Katipunan Vegetable and Agar-Agar Growers Association (KVAGA) in Ipil town, the municipal governments of Alicia, Mabuhay, Olutanga, Payao and Talusan, and the Manga Fishing Seaweeds Association (MAFISA) in Buluan, Ipil. 

Aside from the solar-powered seaweed dryer, Serrano also checked on the information systems developed and maintained by the regional office for the seaweed farmers.

Aris Moratalla, of DOST-IX’s information, communications and technology unit, said that IT systems for day-to-day operations are necessary in the seaweed industry as they facilitate ease of transactions and traceability of office processes, for both internal and external, insofar as the seaweed production is concerned. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)