An environment-friendly approach to improve herbal tea quality

Ephrathah Farms Manager Ed Roderick Cañuto explains how the programmable dehydrator catches solar energy for it to produce heat in the current drying process for the raw materials of their Roselle Tea. (Photo by Ericka Marie Banting)

By: Hannah Britanico, Ericka Marie Banting, and Alysha Mae Gelvosa

A solar powered programmable dehydrator meant to enhance the quality of herbal teawas created by researchers of Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U).

The project was led by Dr. Renerio Mucas which received P5-million funding from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research (PCARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Compared to other dehydrators, ISAT U’s newly developed technology harvests renewable energy through solar panels.

“Other dehydrators are powered by electricity. The dehydrator we developed however, uses solar energy. With this, we can lessen the carbon emission during production,” Mucas said.

Mucas added that the solar energy harvested is converted into heat which is controlled based on the needed temperature and humidity. This is to retain the positive health effects from phytochemicals present in the raw materials used for the herbal tea.

“We determined the phytochemicals present in the tea materials then we tested the phytochemicals in herbal tea packaging that could be helpful sa health natin para whenever uminom ka ng tea, atleast you could have the maximum amount of potents ng tea na yun”, explained Mucas.

The dehydrator was given to their partner industry, Ephrathah Farms, which is in Badiangan, Iloilo.

“We partnered with Ephrathah Farms once for our previous project and they already dwell in herbal tea production. Sila ang may ara sang product so may comparison in output of the previously used na dehydrator and the newly developed programmable dehydrator,” said Mucas.

Ephrathah Farms Manager Ed Roderick Cañuto said the dehydrator given to them is better in terms of output and environmental impact as compared to the one they previously used.

“First, the output from the previous dehydrator was low kay gamay lang siya pero, this [programmable dehydrator] has 12 trays which can overall produce 10 times the amount. Also, since maset in the right temperature and humidity, nami ang result after sang drying process unlike before nga gaka sunog ang iban na raw materials or indi sila dry enough. Second, the programmable dehydrator is environment-friendly kung ikumpara sa previous nga ginagamit kasi gaoperate siya through solar power for 16 hours and only automatically switches to an electric power source kung magset na ang sun at six in the afternoon,” Cañuto added.

Mucas said that through the programmable dehydrator, they are also targeting to help other local farmers, a vision Ephrathah Farms shares.

Uplifting Local Farmers

            Both the researchers from ISAT-U, and Ephrathah Farms have each been looking to commercialize their products to fulfill the aim of helping support the local farmers.

Mucas said he and his team are now promoting the programmable dehydrator in the market which is sold at P400,000.

“Most farmers store their product using drying, so kung may technology tayo sa dryer we could help them preserve yung product nila”, added Mucas.

Ephrathah Farms, on the other hand, plans to branch out their produce of herbal tea.

“As of now ang volume that we produce is not that high. We have malunggay, guyabano, guava, and roselle herbal tea products pero ang outlet namin is only our store. So, by streamlining it to a good market like supermarkets, which is already in the works, we would be looking for a source of other raw materials. In this way, there would be many farms like us nga mapakinabangan gid ang mga raw materials produced by local farmers,” said Cañuto.

Mucas said this is only the start for him and his team for they will be looking for other products, particularly marine products, that can be dried using their programmable dehydrator to further expand its scope of use.