BATAC, Ilocos Norte -- Diverse unique food products and delectable gastronomic treats greeted guests from this town, as well as government officials and members of the academe, during the formal launching of the Food Innovation Center at the S&T Park of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) recently.

The Food Innovation Center is a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Region 1 office headed by Dr. Armando Q. Ganal, MMSU, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

The center, housed in a newly constructed building inside the sprawling 1,300-hectare property of the university, will be a learning hub for research and development in food production and processing of agricultural crops into high value products that can be marketed locally and abroad.

Inside the facility are locally fabricated machineries and equipment used in food processing like the water retort, a manually operated pressure cooking vessel that processes food packed in sealed containers. The center also houses a spray dryer that dries heat-sensitive materials such as food and pharmaceutical products made of slurry paste gel or suspension. Other equipment include the vacuum fryer donated by DOST,  vacuum packaging machine, liquid and solid foam fill machines acquired through MMSU-NEDA-DBP project, and the ceramic water filter.

“With the creation of the Food Innovation Center here in Ilocos Norte, we shift opportunities from Manila to the countryside and increase economic development in the regions. The Filipinos are blessed because of their creativity to produce new products through science and technology,” said science chief Mario G. Montejo.

Montejo further stressed that the Philippines is moving towards creating a vibrant food processing industry that can rival that of Thailand that produces roughly 4,000 new products every year. So far, he said that the Industrial Technology Development Institute or ITDI, an attached agency of the DOST, has committed to develop around 2,000 new products from a variety of agricultural crops abundant in the regions.

Montejo also mentioned that DOST’s drug development program that focuses on locally abundant herbs will also use the center for research purposes. “The DOST’s Tuklas Lunas program is one example of how these kinds of machineries and equipment in the FIC are able to produce high quality and affordable drugs and health products using indigenous medicinal plants that are abundant in the countryside,” Montejo added.

On the other hand, the host province welcomed the putting up of the Food Innovation Center in Batac as it will spur economic development in the region and create employment opportunities for the Ilocanos, well known for being inherently hardworking, creative and resilient.

“The Center is a milestone in our pursuit of excellence in science and technology that will unlock the doors to prosperity… kailangan natin ang innovation at ground breaking ideas. Katulad ng mais, mura ito at pwedeng gawing chichacorn… mahal na ang presyo (pag na-proseso). With this we create more marketable products using our harvest. As we put value added production, we will earn more and it will create a vibrant food industry,” said Atty. Windell Chua, Provincial Administrator of Ilocos Norte, reading from the message of Governor Imee Marcos.

According to Dr. Fe R. Franco, Officer-in-Charge of the MMSU, the Center will pave the way for leveling up local S&T food products with those from our Asian neighbors. She also presented to Secretary Montejo the pledge of commitment of MMSU in this endeavor.

“The Center will provide means to achieve food security for Mang Juan and Aling Maria and through this initiative we will be able to encourage business owners to go into the food processing industry since we have the Technology Business Incubator program that will support this,” stated Dr. Franco.

The launch of the Center was capped by a tour of the facility, food tasting and sampling, and a mini press conference where guests were able to see up close the different food processing equipment.

Aside from Secretary Montejo, others present were DOST Region 1 Director Dr. Armando Q. Ganal; Jeffrey Jubal C. Nalupta, mayor of Batac City; Herdy l. Yumul of MMSU; and Dr. Marilou P. Lucas, MMSU Director for Research.  (S&T Media Service)

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