It is no longer business as usual where agricultural scientists at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) stop at developing products at the research station to be disseminated to farmers by other stakeholders but they have taken it to agro food processing level.
One such initiative is where scientists at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NaRL) in Kawanda have gone ahead to process food products at the incubation centre ready for distribution in the market. They are teaming up with the Korean Food Research Institute (KFRI) and Korean International Agricultural Development Institute who donated to the incubation centre equipment worth Shs2.4b. The initiative is under a two year project implemented jointly with NaRL and the Ministry of Agriculture where the scientists are training incubatees as well as processing agro food products from maize mill, soy mill and rice flour ready for marketing.
The head of the food biosciences laboratory at NaRL, Dr Kephas Nuwakunda, explains that the initiative is to improve food and nutritional security through transferring technology advancement knowledge to food processors.
The director of KFRI, Dr Kum Jum explains that food processing is now a key essential for food security because there is value added to what is consumed and it is the reason the Korean government is investing in such a project.
To him in Uganda agriculture research work is not yet industrialised and so the need for scientists to engage in processing high quality nutritious food for the local market through using advanced technology. The team has embarked on profiling agribusiness farmers and actors growing rice maize and soy bean in the districts of Jinja, Oyam and Masindi and are encouraging them to participate in processing the crops they are growing in order to earn increased income.
Dr Nuwakunda explains that the processing plant contains a set of machinery ranging from grainer cleaner, rice destoner to remove unwanted gravels, milling machine, mixer which is used to mix the processed flour of soy mill, rice and maize as well as mixing granules of maize with soy to come up with extruded cornflakes and other snacks.
In the production room there is humidifying mixer, extruder, cooling conveyors, harmer mill, ribbon mixer and roaster machine. There is also the packaging machine which is used to measure and package the processed food items.
The major machinery in the plant is the extrusion machine where the mixed ingredients are forced through and opening in a perforated plate through the extruder.
The extruder consists a rotating screw tightly fitted within a stationery barrel.
The ingredients for this case are the mixture of granule maize with soy mill which is taken through a conditioner where water and other ingredients such as sugar and potassium are added.
The mixture is then passed through the extruder which puffs and produces cornflakes. This means the cooking takes place within the extruder while moulding the mixture which is cut in the desired blades.
The scientists are so far processing precooked porridge flour from soy, maize and rice which is used for making porridge. Already they have entered a Memorandum of Understanding with an NGO Good neighbours that have ordered for 5.2 tonnes of the product to be supplied to refugees across the country.
The product is sold at Shs4,200 per kilogramme. Other products extruded include cornflakes granules and snacks.
There is the component of the bakery section where the scientists are baking a range of confectionaries ranging from cookies, bread, cakes among others.
According to Dr Nuwakunda so far they have trained people from five different food processing companies and there are other six companies that have sent in their workers for training. If individuals wishing to train come in, they are encouraged to form a food processing company where they will continue to carry out product development from the knowledge acquired.
Baisilio Twikirize is the proprietor for Equator Food Processing who attained knowledge from the institute incubation centre. He is now processing pumpkin flour for instant porridge making, maize flour mixed with pumpkin and soy flour.
He also processes cornflakes from maize granules mixed with soy mill and pumpkin flour. The flour products are packaged in 500grammes and sold at Shs10,000 while the flakes are sold at Shs5,000.