Seaweed farming has long been a reliable source of income for coastal communities in the Philippines. Fringed by waters of the Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf, Zamboanga City is no stranger to the seaweed trade.
Only recently, four communities in the citynamely the Barangays of Santa Catalina, Mampang, Arena Blanco and Tigtabonhave moved to adopt technologies that target seaweed efficient drying process and quality dried seaweed.
While seaweed type is a factor in determining value, the quality of the dried seaweed is what ultimately dictates price.
The current drying practice, which is basically open-area sun drying, can take up to a number of days, and puts the seaweeds at the mercy of the elements.
Farmers resort to covering or storing stocks at the first hint of rain or bad weather, which does little good for the dehydration process, among others.
This usually translates to poor seaweed quality, which, in turn, greatly reduces the farmers command on the commoditys price.
The University of the Philippines Los Baños has developed a system that is capable of drying newly harvested stocks at a faster rate, while protecting the seaweeds from unpredictable weather.
There are currently two types of solar seaweed drying technology available. One is the floating-type, which stays on the water surface, allowing farmers to tow the structure close to their production area for faster harvesting.
Another is the permanent-type, which doubles as a storehouse sturdy enough to withstand harsh weather conditions, and provide easy, all-around access for farmers.
The structures were also designed to reduce direct exposure to sand, dirt and other contaminants that usually contaminated during the harvesting and hauling of fresh seaweeds to the drying area.
Besides the greenhouse/UV-treated sheets that cover both facilities, they are also fitted with built-in solar-powered exhaust fans for the quick and uniform drying of stocks.
At present, studies have shown the structures are capable of drying 2 tons of high-quality fresh seaweeds in a matter of three days, without any inconsistency in the production.
Through the Department of Science and Technology Region 9, the abovementioned communities can expect the technologies to be on their shores as early as the second quarter of 2020. Bon Rafael A. Padayhag/S&T News Service