Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bicol pili nut outfit cuts fuel spending, hikes output via DOST’s combustor technology
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 8 (PNA) -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has introduced the biomass gasifier combustor technology to a leading pili nut processing firm in Bicol, which is now reducing the latter’s spending on fuel and increasing its production output.

From a measly production of 4,200 pieces of pili boat tart, RPM Food Products based in Barangay Balata, Naga City, which is now using the biomass gasifier combustor, has so far been producing 11,200 pieces, DOST Regional Director Tomas Briñas on Monday said here.

Pili boat tart is a quick, small and open pastry with a filling of pili nut kernel, caramel and other flavoring that can be found pre-packed in most groceries and other outlets, making it a popular dessert for lunch, mainly because they are fairly cheap and goes well with most Filipino food recipes.

RPM, which has been four decades in business operation after it was started in 1975 by Avelina Miranda as an ambulant vendor of pili nut products at the Naga City train station, is a success story that depicts a classic struggle, with the firm consistently improving its production and sales, according to Briñas.

It is the first in the region to avail of the gasifier combustor technology using pili nut shells, which are usually dumped as garbage after extracting the kernel, as fuel.

RPM consumes 60 kilograms of these shells daily being bought from farmers at Php5 per kilo, making a total amount of PHP1,800 in weekly fuel consumption which turned out to be over 200-percent economical than liquefied petroleum gas which it used in the past, Briñas said.

Through this technology, the firm was also able to provide employment to two additional workers who were hired in the pili boat tart section and tasked with maximizing the equipment’s heat as wll as its production.

On environment protection and conservation, the gasifier combustor, which operates by gasification and combustion of the biomass to produce a clean effluent gas used directly for various heating applications where thermal energy is required, has also maximized the use of waste materials and reduced pollution emission at the same time.

Generally, a biomass gasifier combustor burns crop residue clean enough so that the combustion gases can be used directly for heating purposes, including grain drying without the need for a heat exchanger to isolate the combustion gases from the drying air.

It includes a screw feeder tube having a screw feeder disposed therein to force the biomass into a first combustion chamber.

A venturi gas pump in it creates a negative pressure region in the gasifier, drawing the first combustion gas into a second chamber where an air passage is provided, having a cross sectional area, which increases the resistance to the flow of the first combustion gas into the second.

A secondary combustion takes place, completely oxidizing the organics in the primary combustion gas and producing a clean exhaust gas which can be used directly for grain or other drying purposes.

An improved first chamber, which is now being used by RPM, includes a manifold section for preventing the biomass from escaping into the secondary combustion chamber, and a variable height grate for allowing the ash product to fall through the holes in the variable height grate.

A damper placed on the exhaust eductor or venturi pump for regulating the thermal output of the system is provided at the air inlets to control the flow rate of secondary air.

Venturi eductors, which have no moving parts -- making them operate entirely maintenance-free, convert the output of a blower into a vacuum that can be used to entrain and feed powders, pellets, and bulk solids into a pneumatic conveying system.

Miranda’s acquisition of this technology was under the DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) assistance, a development intervention that empowers the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the creation of conducive business environments to prove their productivity and increase efficiency through the infusion of appropriate technologies.

Under this program, RPM was granted by DOST an amount of Php108,000 for the acquisition of the gasifier combustor, Briñas said.

In Bicol, DOST records show that the program has already assisted about 30 MSMEs distributed among the region’s six provinces, which were provided a total funding support amounting to over PHP20 million in their individual business projects.

These projects passed through the evaluative and learning lenses of an external Review and Technical Evaluation Committee (RTEC) composed mostly of local experts from state universities and colleges and financial and private institutions in the region.

Through the DOST-SETUP, this value-adding initiatives did not only benefit the MSMEs particularly on their product upgrading and income but has also provided economic stimulus livelihood opportunities to people in the community such as backward/forward labor complementation, derived demand and others.

In Bicol, an agricultural economy, Briñas said, these projects are mainly in support to commercialization of the region’s banner ethnic food products such as pili, which is already making waves in the export market.

The SETUP is not the first science and technology (S&T) DOST intervention availed of by Miranda’s firm as in 2009, it was a beneficiary of the agency’s Manufacturing Productivity Extension Program (MPEX), Food Safety Practicum for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP).

With these interventions, Briñas said, the food firm has been able to expand its product lines from pili boat tart, crispy pili sweets to about 20 more lines that are now among the favorite take home (pasalubong) items of tourists coming in to Naga City and other areas where RPM has established markets like most parts of Bicol and Metro Manila.

It has also outlets abroad, particularly in Germany and Taiwan, where dozens of boxes are shipped once or twice a month.

Miranda, with her persistence in promoting and manufacturing of signature Bicolano products which have already captured a niche abroad, has really grown big from a mere ambulant vendor to a successful businessperson, according to Briñas.She is now honored as a multi-awarded entrepreneur who sees RPM Food Products as her undeterred legacy in creating perfect food items.(PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS