Breadfruit Project Successfully Demonstrates Drying Technique

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Regional University of Hawaii project promises economic development

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 20, 2015) – Ulu drying has been successful in American Samoa, says Papali’i Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, the man spearheading the Ulu Project for the Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP) at the University of Hawaii- Manoa, where they are looking at developing and commercializing the industry in American Samoa and other U.S. Pacific islands.

He told Samoa News the Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (PRBI), a PBCP project funded by the US Department of the Interior-Office of Insular Affairs (USDOI-OIA), successfully tested the use of a retrofitted freight container installed with processing and drying technology and tools that arrived in the territory by surface freight earlier in the week.

"The test exceeded expectations with a breakthrough in the drying process," he explained to Samoa News saying the breadfruit food drying process uses a combination of technologies approach that best preserves the nutrition quality while also extending the shelf life for a gluten-free, low glycemic healthy alternative to wheat for both local consumption and export.

According to Papali’i, the breakthrough was led by Food Science Professor Alvin Huang of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture, assisted by the mechanical engineering skills of Representative Su’a Alexander Jennings, representing Olohega (Swains) Atoll and Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Marine and Wildlife and Forestry.

He stated that Jennings is a USN veteran and former Boeing Company airframe and power plant mechanic/machinist who also worked as a subway technician for the BART system of San Francisco.

Papali’i told Samoa News the goal now is to retrofit 40 ft. freight containers to dry breadfruit with a minimum three-month shelf life, then deploy the containers by ship to remote islands and communities with limited resources and infrastructure but groves of breadfruit trees.

"After off loading goods on its route to remote islands, the empty hulls will be filled on the return trip with dried breadfruit cargo ready for milling, processing into products and manufacturing for local use and export to the U.S. market.

The retrofitted freight containers will make raw materials accessible from hundreds of scattered islands in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia possible. A regional supply source not singular island source is vital to the development of the breadfruit industry in the Pacific, said Papali’i.

"The retrofitted and easily deployed freight container will not only establish supply links to milling and manufacturing hubs for export and economic benefits assuring job creation, local manufacturing and light industry development; but will assure a steady supply of breadfruit products for our local markets and a major food solution to slow down the obesity and diabetes epidemic among our elders and stop its spread to our children.

"The pilot test project now moves to its final test phase of operating the innovation in a remote island, i.e. Manu’a. An inauguration date will be announced when final shipping and village traditional leadership are consulted for their approval and support," he said.

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