One of the critical issues affecting the fishery sector is postharvest loss. As peak season entices growth of surplus production, a lot of perishable goods is also being wasted. Wastage is now at high levels due to the lack of postharvest.
During peak season, supply of fish is high but because fishers lack the means and knowledge to preserve or store their harvested products, these are either set aside to rot, unconsumed, or thrown away.
Throughout the years, local fishers have been smoking, drying, salting, frying, and fermenting their surplus fish as a way of preserving and storing them for future use or for the market. Among these traditional methods, drying and smoking are the simplest and widely used by local fisherfolk. These do not only prolong the shelf life of the produce but they also reduce waste at times of abundant catch and permit storage for the lean season.
On the nutritional side, drying and smoking enhance the flavor making the fish as main ingredient for soups and sautÃƒÂ©ed vegetables. Likewise, preserving the fish makes it easier to pack, transport, and market.
Although fishers have been adopting these postharvest methods to preserve fish, the quality and market potential of the products are still substandard. The traditional way of smoking and drying is rudimentary and often times unsanitary and the finished product is prone to dirt and contamination.
A Multi-Purpose and Portable Smokehouse
To minimize postharvest loss during peak season and improve the drying and smoking process by the local fisherfolk, Mr. Zaldy A. Fernandez of the College of Industrial Technology, Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) developed a multi-purpose and portable smokehouse. The actual construction of the multi-purpose smokehouse was done at the Automative Building in MMSU, Laoag City.
The smokehouse was constructed using locally available stainless galvanized iron sheets and stainless round bars. It has a height of 1.83 m and a circumference of 2.44 m. It could generate heat of about 148.8 C using 5 kg mixture of charcoal, sawdust, and rice hull.
The device has three main parts: head, body, and combustion chamber. The head is an inverted cone type that could create a vacuum force such that the heat and smoke generated in the combustion chamber is concentrated in the body of the machine. The head has a throttle valve attached to the neck and mechanically operated to control the smoke and heat inside the device.
Meanwhile, the body is 0.74 m tall and has a built-in rack that can hold seven trays. The body can accommodate up to 30 kg of fish. Each tray which is removable for easy loading can hold 3-4 kg of fish. For easy cleaning, a filter is mounted at the bottom of the trays above the combustion chamber. This also helps manage the exhaust coming out from the combustion chamber, so the quality of the fish is not affected. Likewise, to effectively monitor the temperature during operation, a gauge is attached to the sidewall of the body.
The combustion chamber has a sliding and removable basin or manifold where the charcoal and sawdust fall. The sliding nature of the basin gives this device an advantage over any ordinary smokehouse device because it allows the operator to easily check, add, or remove the fuel. This also enables appropriate adjustments on the temperature.
Attached under the manifold of the chamber is a separate depository basin for the ashes and fuel residues. To facilitate ignition, a six-ampere blower fan is attached at the side of the chamber for continuous heat. In addition, an air duct is connected at the surface of the fan going to the main body of the device to increase and maintain the circulation of heat and smoke.
Testing the Smokehouse
The device was tested and evaluated by comparing it with the drum type smoker, which is usually used by local fisherfolk to smoke their fishes. The data gathered were analyzed using five parameters for the standard characteristics of smokers, namely: simplicity of operation, portability, capacity, and cost and return in smoking fish.
Compared to the conventional drum type smoker, results showed big difference in terms of fish capacity, fuel usage, time of fuel ignition, temperature, and smoking. In terms of capacity, the new device can hold three times (20 kg) more than the drum type (6 kg). Using the same amount of charcoal and sawdust as fuel, the new device can smoke an hour shorter than the conventional smoker. Likewise, the fuel ignition only takes three minutes compared to the 10 minutes of the drum type. Since the new device has a built-in throttle valve, temperature can be easily regulated and controlled unlike in the old device, thus producing better quality smoked or dried fish.
The total expense to produce the smokehouse device was P15, 000. The labor cost was 50% of the actual price of the materials used. The operational cost for smoking fish in three hours is around P2, 227 with a marketable price of P150/kg of the produce. The gross income per operation is P3,000 with net income of P623. According to Mr. Fernandez, if the device operates once a day for three hours with 20 kg of smoked fish as produce, the break even can be attained within 28 days.
For more information, contact:
Bureau of Agricultural Research
Department of Agriculture
3/F RDMIC Bldg., Visayas Ave.
cor. Elliptical Rd., Diliman Quezon City 1104
Trunklines: 928-8505 or 927-0226
Local Nos. 2043, 2042, 2044
E-mail: [email protected]
author: Rita T. dela Cruz of www.bar.gov.ph