AGRICULTURAL PROCESSING AND VALUE ADDITION: ACTION RESEARCH.
DEVELOPMENT OF TOMATO-BASED PRODUCTS.
SUGECO’s new food preservation and research project involves a crop common to Tanzania – Tomatoes! The project involves both researching and implementing age-old preservation techniques (that are both natural and environmentally friendly). Our current research? The development of tomato-based snacks and products (such as tomato sauce and fruit jerky)! We hope to develop marketable products that cater to the Tanzanian market and also have an extended shelf-life (without the addition of harmful preservatives) picture.
ADDRESSING ROOT DISEASE IN GREENHOUSES.
SUGECO is involved in constructing 8 meter by 30 meter greenhouses for a number of district councils. One of the challenges identified is that intensive production of tomatoes on the same ground may result in root disease issues over time that could lower plant yield and the economic viability of production. This is particularly true for tomatoes and cucumbers, two of the most widely grown greenhouse plants. There are several ways to address this problem including soil sterilization (chemical or steaming), improved plant root disease resistance (varietal selection, plant grafting), crop rotation, or non-soil-based production. As a potential solution, SUGECO is looking at non-soil based production and is testing and comparing results from the following multiple soil medium:
-Sand, rice husks, coconut fibres.
-Sand, rice husks, coconut fibres, and charcoal.
-Sand, rice husks, coconut fibre, charcoal, and manure.
-Sand, rice husks, coconut fibres, manure, and sand.
This is an inexpensive practical research project, the results of which will have long-term implications on the success of growing crops under greenhouse conditions.
Another solution to combating root disease is plant grafting. Grafting joins one plant variety to another to gain the positive attributes of both. Grafting allows the use of plants for rootstocks that are very disease resistant. Conversely, the top portion (scion) allows for use of tomato variety(s) that maximize selected fruit quality characteristics. Besides root disease resistance and more crop variety options, grafting has other benefits. It can produce a more vigorous, generative plant that can have higher yields and more tolerance to high temperatures (beneficial to addressing global warming issues).
The grafting of tomatoes requires some specialized skills and facilities. Two years ago, the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) completed a study demonstrating successful grafting techniques. This project included the construction of a small facility to complete the grafting. SUGECO is presently exploring the possibility of collaborating with SUA on plant propagation which would see the renovation of the SUA facility, the training of SUGECO staff/members on plant propagation, and the establishment of an incubation facility at SUGECO for training and the production of grafted plants for marketing to greenhouses throughout the country. It would also expose young farmers to this new greenhouse technology. SUGECO is well placed to undertake this action research because of its previous experience in grafting other non-tomato plants and fruit trees.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF NUTRITIOUS OFSP PRODUCTS.
SUGECO has been working with entrepreneurs to chip and dry orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) and mill and mix the product with various types of grains resulting in highly nutritious flour which is particularly beneficial for pregnant and lactating mothers and their babies as well as seniors. The flour is packaged and sold as pure OFSP or as a mixture of different grains including soybeans. The flour is also milled elsewhere in the country but on a small scale and its’ micronutrient benefits are largely unknown within the general population.
In the future, SUGECO expects to support young entrepreneurs in developing specific, value-added OFSP products (using either flour or a puree) that are nutritious and that can be marketed to food vendors and other SMMEs to expand OFSP consumption. Some examples of these products could include OFSP chapatti, bread, other baked goods, juice, and baby food. It is hoped that a small “backyard” factory can be established on the SUGECO site to develop the puree and test various recipes that would encourage greater OFSP consumption by the broader community.