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R&D efforts geared towards preserving abalone in Palawan

abalone productionAlong the coasts of Palawan is a rare shellfish called abalone. Locals would more often recognize it as sobra-sobra (Ilonggo) which, in English, translates as “too much.” As abalone reaches maturity, one would notice the sea creature’s flesh overlapping its shell covering. Abalone is rich in Omega 3, iodine, and phosphorous which help in reducing the risk of getting cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Despite being named sobra-sobra, abalone is considered a rarity in the agri-fishery industry. The sea creatures don’t just grow under any coastal circumstances.Saltwater salinity must be at a 32-35parts per thousand with the sites as the shellfish thrive nowhere near freshwater sources. Sites also need to have clear and flowing water at all times.

Harvesting wild abalone is an arduous task. Fishermen have to dive down to the bottom of intertidal flats to 10 meters or more and individually handpick those that are fully-grown and mature and take these to the surface. Often, they have to be pried free from underwater rocks. The fisherfolk then offload this onshore. Harvesting is repeated with fresh batches of the shellfish gathered anew until enough abalone is gathered. Because of their nutritional value and the laborious process of harvesting abalone, it is only natural that abalone commands premium price with a kilogram of abalone sold at around PhP300-850 (USD6-17) depending on whether it is live, frozen, or canned.

In South Africa, exporting abalone is mostly done through the black market where tons and tons of the hunted shellfish are transported to countries that generate the highest demand for the product way beyond the country’s appointed quota. The amount of abalone leaving South Africa exceeds the limit mandated by the government with an estimated 40,000 tons taken from the wild since 2001. According to an investigative study conducted by National Geographic, smuggling abalone out of the country is easy as it is facilitated by organized criminal groups that coerce poor working class divers.

The risk then that concerns the abalone industry is the depletionof the wild species freely roaming the ocean. While abalone isn’t as lucrative in the Philippines as much as it is in South Africa, it is still being hunted down too often by fisherfolk in Palawan. Researchers from the Western Philippines University(WPU) have discovered that coral reefs in some of Palawan’s shoreline are also being destroyed due to widespread unregulated collection of sobra-sobra.


R&D efforts to preserve the abalone

In order to preserve the populations of wild abalone along the shores of Palawan, the WPU-College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in partnership with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), embarked on the project, “Utilization of Indigenous Materials for the Mass Production and Community Farming System of Abalone (Haliotis asinina) in Palawan.” The project is aimed at introducing an alternative agri-fishery system that would provide enough harvestable abalone for a fisherfolk family’s daily provisions as well as lessen the collection of the threatened wild abalone.

Under the leadership of abalone biology and culture expert, Dr. Lota Alcantara-Creencia, WPU developed a hatchery, nursery, and grow-out culture system of abalone in the university’s Binduyan Marine Research Station which is an hour’s drive north of Puerto Princesa City.

The research initiated toput up mechanisms for fisherfolk families in Taytay, Palawan to receive abalone juveniles three months after they are fertilized in the Binduyan station’s abalone culture facilities. This is in coordination with Malampaya Foundation, Inc. with operation in northern Palawan. From the batch given to them by the researchers,the beneficiaries were able to jumpstart their own stock of cultured abalone with the use of their grow-out cages set up along the coast.

Aside from supplying the first batch of abalone culture, fisherfolk families were also taught to utilize indigenous raw materials in mass-producing the grow-out cages used to culture abalone. The grow-out cages are mostly made up of bamboo which, according to the results of WPU’s study, is just as efficient as the ones made of PVC. Aside from being cheaper, utilizing indigenous materials also helps the farming communities as the fisherfolk have to outsource their materials from locals who sell bamboo.

The species of abalone that are being cultured in Palawan is Haliotis asinina. Compared to other species, H. asinina exhibits the largest shell length among Philippine abalones. It also has the fastest growth rate among cultured abalones in the world. H. asinina from Palawan is usually exported to countries that have high demand for the shellfish such as Hong Kong and South Korea. Aside from Palawan, abalone is now also being cultured in the provinces of Quezon, Masbate, Marinduque, Antique, Guimaras, Negros Provinces, Samar, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga, and Sulu.

Apart from BAR, WPU is also collaborating with Commission on Higher Education, Department of Science and Technology, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the United States Agency for International Development towards preserving Palawan’s sobra-sobra and helping the local abalone industry. ### (Ephraim John J. Gestupa)


For more information, please contact:
Dr. Lota Alcantara-Creencia
Project Leader
Western Philippines University
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Tel. No.: 0928-280-9419
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Potentials of arrowroot rhizome wastes for food studied

arrowrootCan wastes ultimately find their way to our tables?

This is what the Marinduque State College (MSC) explored in one of their studies under the project, “Enhancing Productivity and Viability of Arrowroot Industry in Marinduque,” which was supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research under the Department of Agriculture’s High Value Crops Development Program.

According to Mr. Michael V. Capina, project leader, arrowroot is a local rootcrop that grows in the province of Marinduque. It forms one of the profitable industries in the province due to the high quality of the sought after by-product, which is the starch, that can be extracted from its rhizomes. With its superior properties – in food preparation and its easy digestibility – pastries such as the popular arrowroot cookies of Marinduque, biscuits, and other bakery products are being made out of it. Arrowroot starch is also being used for non-food purposes with its applications in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Mr. Capina and his team, however, observed that only 45 percent of the rhizomes are being utilized for starch. “During the usual extraction process, recovery for starch ranges from 13 to 20 percent only, with 27 to 35 percent remaining as rhizome residues, and 45 to as much as 60 percent as water,” he explained. Hence, their study focused specifically on utilizing the rhizome waste materials from the extraction process of arrowroot starch to produce arrowroot flour.

flour of waste or arrowroot sapal

In their study, waste rhizomes (sapal) were washed and dried afterwards. After drying, the waste rhizomes were ground 2-3 times to produce the flour. This flour was then used to make brownies and cookies. “Results of proximate analysis showed that the flour derived from waste rhizomes is comparable to the arrowroot starch extracted with the usual process, in fact, with even higher crude fiber content than the starch,” Mr. Capina said.

The products, however, are still being subjected to further improvement alongside testing and analysis. Apart from human consumption, the flour is also being studied for its potentials as an animal feed material. “We are exploring the expanded utilization of arrowroot by-products to help reduce environmental pollution resulting from direct discharge of unused by-products,” Mr. Capina concluded.

Also under the study, Mr. Capina and his team have tried developing novelty items from wastes of different arrowroot plant parts such as handmade paper from leaves; picture frame, fan, and pen holder from stalks; paper bag from rhizome skins; and cardboard and tissue holder from waste rhizomes (sapal). ### (Ann Camille Brion)


For more information, contact:
Mr. Michael V. Capina
Project/Study Leader
Marinduque State College
Tel. Nos.: (042) 332-2028/0389
Mobile No.: 0920-235-8657
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Harvesting success from seaweeds


With seaweeds’ wide range of uses from food and fertilizer to cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, seaweed farming has rapidly grown into an industry that offers sustainable income and employment to fishers. The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest producers of the semi-processed seaweed product called Carageenan, cites seaweeds as its top aquaculture commodity, followed by milkfish and tilapia.

Seaweed farming has been generating livelihood for many coastal communities in the country since the 1970s. With seaweed farming not entirely limited to men, the industry has also opened livelihood opportunities for women, with some becoming economically active for only the first time.

Women Winning at Seaweeds

This has been the case for the members of the women’s organizations tapped by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Region V in the implementation of the project, "Product Development/Improvement and Commercialization of Seaweeds in Bicol Region".

Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under the National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), the project tapped existing organizations such as the Tabaco Faith International Church (TFIC) Ladies Association, Tobaco, Albay and Rural Improvement Club of Layog, Barcelona, Sorsogon,

Through the seminars and trainings that the team of BFAR V Research Manager Aida Andayog conducted, the members of these organizations were taught how to formulate, produce, develop, package and market food products processed from seaweeds.

“We also conducted trainings and held seminars to educate farmers and the organizations’ members on the principles of good manufacturing practices (GMP) and sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOP),” says Andayog. GMP and SSOP are prerequisites of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points Program (HACCP), an internationally recognized guarantee of the quality of food products.

Aside from these, Andayog takes pride in the tests that the group successfully conducted to really ensure the quality of their seaweed products. “Our products underwent sensory evaluation to assess the products’ appearance, odor, flavor and textures, and, more importantly, their nutritional value through nutritional evaluation. We also conducted microbiological analysis of our products, such as seaweed juice, pickled seaweeds and nata de seaweeds, as well as nutritional analysis of various seaweed-finished food products,” Andayog adds.

According to Nimfa B. Moreno, a seaweed processor and member of the TFIC Ladies Association, not only has the project provided the seaweed processors with additional knowledge on the processing of seaweed for food, thus increasing their income opportunities, but has also taught the people in the communities to use their time well by taking part in seaweed-related ventures. She says the biggest benefit of the project was that it made the people realize that they can help themselves through entrepreneurship, and this helps make sure that the purpose of the project will continue even after the project is concluded.

Seaweed-based products expand into enterprises

Aside from the commercialization of seaweeds and processed seaweed products in Bicol, the project also aimed to establish village-level seaweed production and processing enterprises, providing greater chances for Bicolano fisherfolk and seaweed processors to engage in agribusiness. Thus, to further pursue this goal, the project, “Commercialization of Seaweed Products and Other Fishery Value-Added products in Bicol Region,” was implemented by BFAR-Region V.

The demand for seaweed-based products can be easily met by the six Bicol provinces now actively engaged in seaweed farming: Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, and Masbate, with Sorsogon being the top producer due to its vast coastal waters. To encourage even more fisherfolk and coastal communities to engage in seaweed farming and product development, various techno-demo and training activities were conducted by the projects.

The uniqueness, taste, and nutritional value of Bicol-made seaweed products, which Andayog noted as their competitive advantage, play a significant role in commercializing and marketing them. According to her, “Seaweeds are nutritious. They can help build and sustain the broad nutritional requirements and balance of vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients on which optimum health and vitality depend.”

In 2012, the TFIC Ladies group produced about two tons of pancit fortified with seaweeds which were marketed and sold in Manila and Cebu, even reaching as far as South Korea. Developed and packaged seaweed products were also displayed and marketed by the organization in various trade fairs and exhibits for product promotion and market-matching.

Seaweed pancit and nata de seaweed have both give the project beneficiaries return-on-investment (ROI) of 65 percent on the average, with annual net income hitting P93,600 and P15,360, respectively. Seaweed pickles yielded a net income of P34,512 with a 70 percent ROI.

Other food products derived from seaweed also posted high ROIs: seaweed marmalade (89%), candied dried seaweed (86%), seaweed chips (79%), seaweed cracknels (67%), seaweed chocolate (85%), seaweed tart (71%), seaweed morcon (94%), seaweed longanisa (66%), fish lumpia with seaweeds (76%) and yema with seaweeds (55%).

Seaweed products continue to provide extra income, not only to the women of the TFIC, but also to other organizations that BFAR Region V has trained. And, as these and other products to be developed improve in taste and quality, it will not be long before these become national and international hits, and good sources of health and wellness, income, and pride for the Bicolanos. ### (Mara Shyn Valdeabella)

Phl’s tilapia ice cream showcased in SIAL Canada 2017

2017-04-Tilapia ice cream on display at the SIAL Canada 2017The Philippine's very own “tilapia ice cream” was featured in Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire (SIAL) Canada 2017 on 2-4 May 2017 in Toronto, Canada drawing an interesting perception from attendees.

Developed by the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), tilapia ice cream won during the SIAL ASEAN-Manila 2016 held at the World Trade Center, Manila. The product received a gold medal as the Innovation World Winner. The DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) invited tilapia ice cream to be showcased during the SIAL ASEAN-Manila 2016.

BAR, under its National Technology Commercialization Program, supported the technology enhancement and commercialization of tilapia ice cream along with the developed tilapia cookies which were optimally aligned to consumers' preference.

As part of their award, they will join the world tour in other SIAL Exhibitions scheduled in Paris, Indonesia, Dubai, and China.

Attendance to these exhibitions serves as venue to inform attendees, especially Filipinos working abroad, on the other products of the Philippines. Filipinos who are based in Canada were able to visit the booth, and showed interest in other locally-produced products. They got excited in exploring possibilities on how they can bring and promote Philippine products and possibly invest as livelihood opportunities in their families back home.

SIAL is the North America's largest Food Innovation Trade Show showcasing products from 25 countries around the world. ### (MEAquino/DA-BAR):

Strengthening local macadamia production in Luzon through R&D

06The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry-Baguio National Crop Research Development and Production Support Center (BPI-BNCRDPSC) are working together on a research and development project that will help develop and promote the commercial production of macadamia in Luzon.

The project, “Macadamia Conservation, Propagation and Commercialization in Luzon,” targets to increase local macadamia production; improve farming systems and biodiversity through the integration of macadamia production; and make available quality macadamia seedlings. In achieving these, the project will characterize, evaluate, and conserve existing macadamia trees in Luzon; develop appropriate propagation methods; develop appropriate nursery management technologies; produce quality planting materials; and promote production through the establishment of a demonstration orchard and the dissemination of information materials.

The project has verified the adaptability of the macadamia tree to Baguio City conditions, taking into consideration the macadamia trees in the experimental station that have matured. At the BPI-Baguio experimental station, there are eight fully-grown macadamia trees that are about 15 years old and are already fruiting all year round. The trees show good promise of locally-grown macadamia for commercial production. Macadamia has the potential for commercial production, either as a cash crop or as a component of agroforestry systems. The introduction of macadamia into the existing production systems will enhance food production and biodiversity and industry development from its products and by-products.


On-going verification trials on germination, grafting techniques, and use of cuttings for propagation are being done in the experimental station. Researchers are experimenting on several nursery management technologies using different potting media and soil additives. About 500 cuttings that were set under intermittent mist are now in the callous stage which will eventually produce roots. A total of 150 seedlings were asexually propagated and are being maintained through regular watering, fertilizer application, and pest and disease management.

The existing trees in the station are being maintained as sources of scions for grafting of seedlings and cuttings for propagation. The harvested nuts are used for seedling production. The researchers pointed out that, for the target of 1,500 quality planting materials of macadamia, a total of 1,007 seedlings (seedlings, grafted plants, and cuttings) have already been produced. Majority are seedlings which will still be grafted. Grafting is performed whenever there are seedlings available and scion branches are ready for use in propagation. In addition, 437 macadamia nuts that were sown are now starting to germinate. The harvesting of macadamia nuts is continuously being done since the existing macadamia trees are bearing continuously.


Based on the investment analysis prepared by the project proponent for a one-hectare macadamia orchard, assuming that the initial capital is Php 205,000, positive returns could be realized in the 6th year with projected gross margin of Php 591,800 from the 10th year onwards, or a return on investment of 200 percent.

Considering further that macadamia production has a relatively low input requirement, it could be promoted as a cash crop for small farmers, and a potential crop in areas with inadequate irrigation systems or rainfall due to its relative tolerance to drought. In fact, macadamia plantings were also reported in Ilocos region which is a relatively dry area.

The project on macadamia conservation, propagation, and commercialization in Luzon is funded and supported under the National Technology Commercialization Program of DA-BAR. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca, DA-BAR)

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Juliet M. Ochasan
Project Leader 
Guisad, Baguio City
Tel. Nos.: (074) 445-9084/300-3584
Email Add.: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.