American Samoa Company Develops Breadfruit Flour Production Process

Gluten-free product could be exported around the world

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 8, 2016) – A local company has started a mill operation producing “Gluten Free Breadfruit Flour” using a retrofitted freight container dehydrator, which is the subject of an extensive assessment by a US college professor, and samples of the breadfruit flour were revealed over the weekend.

The Bank of Hawaii Foundation is supporting the dehydrator project, initiated last year, through a grant awarded to the the University of Hawaii Pacific Business Center Program, headed by Papali’i Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, which launched more than two years ago the ‘Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative’ (PRBI) project.

“Manufactured and Distributed locally in American Samoa by Dream Builders Inc.,” according to the labeling on the medium size zip-lock bags samples of “Gluten Free Breadfruit Four” handed out to several individuals, including members of the press, after last Saturday’s Swains island open-meeting to select its Delegate to the local House of Representatives, in the 35th Legislature.

As part of his speech after being again selected by Swains islanders, Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings told the gathering about a meeting this week in the territory, which a US university professor will attend because there is an increased demand for gluten free flour.

Papali’i, who arrived last Friday night from Honolulu, said yesterday that Dr. Jeff Gwirtz, Kansas State University’s Professor of Food Engineering, milling and flour was due to arrive last night and Su’a will be preparing an “ulu pancake breakfast and related assortments” for today’s (Tuesday) meeting here.

“We are about to turn the corner and divine spirits willing, we can launch a small regional initiative between American Samoa and Samoa within months and scale its expansion to the South Pacific,” Papali’i told Samoa News on Sunday.

Gwirtz will be conducting an assessment of Su’a’s container dehydrator. “The container is retrofitted to dehydrate, to dry the breadfruit,” Su’a said last Saturday when asked by Samoa News about the container. “So there’s a lot of people interested in it. And this industry, breadfruit flour, I think, it’s growing, it’s developing into a food super product.”

Su’a also said that he attended a conference on August 27 in Hawai’i and “there’s been a lot of interest from all over the world” and “they’ve all heard about the design we have in American Samoa about the container [hydrator].”

“The milling center is at my house, and I’ve got all of the equipment,” he said, adding that the breadfruit flour project is “looking very good. It’s a new product and although a  lot of islands have done it on their own, it’s now becoming a global interest. So I’m very positive, I really believe it’s going to take off eventually.”

Su’a said he received a telephone call last week from New Jersey, where a scientist with a research food product company was interested in getting some breadfruit flour after the scientist was referred to by someone to contact American Samoa, “where the best [breadfruit] flour is right now.”

BOH REPORT

In a follow-up report last week to the Bank of Hawaii Foundation, which provided a $5,000 grant for field testing and operations in American Samoa of the solar-powered dehydrator, the UH-Pacific Business Center Program says the retrofitted freight container, an innovation designed and built by Su’a, has significantly addressed the drying process following numerous interactions, modifications and adjustments.

It explains the concept of utilizing a freight container retrofitted to build on its natural design for retaining heat, local availability and easily deployable to remote islands where the primary source of transportation is sea vessel not roads, highlighted the value of engaging local knowledge, familiarity, culture and expertise.

“The dehydrator was designed based on local resources, expertise and methods enhanced by the input and extensive knowledge of breadfruit by people where breadfruit is central to their culture,” the report says. “The design is an effective means of drying and processing raw breadfruit in unique geographical areas where access is by ship.”

According to the report, the prototype developed and built by Su’a brings to bear the holistic weave of traditional wisdom and knowledge with modern knowledge, science and technology. Additionally, the holistic weave emphasizes sustainable economic development rooted in local capacity building, utilization of local raw agricultural products and respectfully engages traditional knowledge and expertise.

The report also noted that Gwirtz would be in American Samoa to conduct an overall assessment of the dehydrator container “for food readiness and functionality for drying and milling.” His review will lay the foundation for testing the raw harvest collection, drying, processing, logistics and shipping of dried breadfruit from Samoa to American Samoa.

“This mini trial will exponentially expand to the regional breadfruit islands of Fiji and Tonga in the South Pacific within months,” it says. “If successful, dried breadfruit from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu could be shipped to American Samoa by the summer of 2017.”

Gwirtz is also the President of JAG Service Inc., Manhattan, Kansas, specializing in food production and is a leading global expert on milling science, technology and flour making. He is also a team member of the PRBI project.

According to the report, Gwirtz’s testing, assessment, review and applications of the wheat milling and flour making process for breadfruit has been vital to infrastructure planning and design suitable for breadfruit with its challenges of natural latex and 5 other local agricultural products that can be transformed into flour, i.e, banana and coconut to name a few.

Additional areas of expertise that can be applied to a breadfruit industry include general flour milling, plant operations and standards for drying processes, dried food material cleaning, maintenance/cleaning, packaging and warehousing, conditioning and milling equipment milling process and system flow sheets.

More in later edition on the report and other information on the $5,000 grant from BoH Foundation.

The Samoa News
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