Innovative Enset Project: 3 machines designed, starter culture ready

Ongoing Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute-funded, ‘Innovative Enset Technology for Gentle Processing, Value-added Products, Safe Storage and Longer Shelf-life’ in its 1st year has saw designing of three automated machines i.e. corm scrapping, pseudo-stem processing and squeezing machines with innovative fermentation jars, informed its Principal Researcher, Dr Addisu Fekadu.Click here to see the pictures
He further adds, in the beginning, we were tasked with the designing of these machines that has been done with our stakeholders, Worabe and Durame Polytechnic Colleges and Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi). And simulation told us that with scrapping machine one person can separate pulp from fiber in an hour; while, traditionally, many would work hard for days and issue of hygiene was attached to it. The production cost of this machine will be ETB 50,000 which may be costly for an individual, but it can be profitable for a professional group as it will fetch quite good revenue.

New corm scrapping machine has capacity to pulverize fleshy part out of Enset (corm) while, traditionally, it was hard labor for days together and this machine can make it possible in an hour. Similarly, its cost may not be an inordinate as well.

Designed squeezing machine isn’t automated, but more efficient than the previous one for one man can squeeze liquid out of pulp that will release starch that is allowed to decant as sediments ‘bulla’ while left-over part is known as ‘kocho’. Therefore, prototypes of these machines will be given to the community for their costs aren’t that high, Dr Addisu added.

You know, fermentation is the most crucial stage in making of Enset food product which manually was quite dilatory; it used to take at least two months for people would bury the product under 1-to-2 meter deep pit that wasn’t hygienic either because underneath ground generates clostridium bacteria that secret butyric acid giving unpleasant smell to the end products.

Hereafter, we will put product in glazed and air-tight jars that will quicken fermentation process. Presently experiments are done in jars imported from Belgium, but later on, they will be produced locally keeping in view all technical parameters. We will also build the capacity of local artisans so that after evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of locally made jars, they will be manufactured on large scale, he added

The multiple issues that make locally produced jars fully suitable will be looked into; we will monitor key parameters like physico-chemical and microbial dynamic, pH moisture content, titratable acidity and temperature. Likewise, presence of desirable lactic acid bacteria, yeasts and an undesirable micro-organism called Enterobacteriaces has to be below detectable limit will be looked into and glazing that add to the quality of product will be duly standardized, he averred.

Micro-silos have also been used to ferment Enset for mini-scale experiment, the content put in these silos introducing new types of fermentation system that can be appropriate for a family.

The most crucial aspect of Enset food is ‘starter culture’ which wasn’t there since ages. Now we could develop best isolates (lactic acid bacteria), it has been identified, characterized, screened and obtained from different regions. We have strains of lactic acid species i.e. lactobacillus plantarum and leuconostoc mesenteroides; they have been characterized and evaluated under field conditions.

These cultures have to be examined under three different altitudes 3,000, 2,600 and 1200 above sea level to find out how they respond under different temperatures. They have been evaluated under control condition; now it has to be done under field conditions. One gram of culture contains 1 million lactic acid bacteria, he informed.

These cultures are freeze-dried and when humidity and altitude get higher in that condition, most micro-organism won’t be active hence we have to increase the content of culture. Good kocho should have less than pH 4.5 for altitude changes abundance of bacteria varies.

During 2nd and final year of project cycle, pilot scale testing of the invented technology will be carried out in regions like Oromia and other zones in South Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region i.e. Guraghe, Sidamo, Dawuro and Wolaita to evaluate their efficacy.
And once machines are developed, farmers will be involved so that they know how these machines work in given conditions and respective altitudes that will decide the pace of fermentation.

PhD Scholar, Mr Sabura Shara, and Mr Ashenafi Azage are co-researchers while Dr Fassil Eshetu looks into the administrative aspect of the project. Dr Simon Shibru and Dr Teshome Yirgu are overall supervisors.
(Corporate Communication Directorate)