By Julieta R. Roa, Visayas State University / S&T Media Service
To maintain the supply of sweet potato for its restaurant offering, “spring chicken with sweet potato fries,” Max’s chain of restaurants requested a support to develop the supply chain of appropriate nutrient-rich sweet-potato variety that can produce quality fries.
To its rescue is Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD). It provided assistance to Max’s through the project, “Support Systems for Sweet Potato Value Chain Development and Establish SP Value Chains in Leyte-Samar.”
The project is being implemented by the Visayas State University-Philippine Rootcrops Research and Training Center (VSU-PhilRootcrops) under the PCAARRD-funded Sweet Potato Industry Strategic S&T Program (SP-ISP).
Max’s chain of restaurants currently engages VSU-PhilRootcrops and Nutri-pros, a private food-business entity leading a farmers’ group.
Through the project, 3 hectares of PSB SP17, a recommended sweet potato high-yielding variety for fries because of its quality and shelf life, has been established in Antipolo. The nursery will supply a 20-hectare production area that is scheduled to sustainably meet Max’s volume requirements.
The expansion period is set in early 2019, with about 60-hectare identified areas in Antipolo and Bulacan.
Max’s also needed sweet-potato powder for various culinary uses, which can be made into quality products by their innovative chefs. VSU recommended for this purpose the Super Bureau variety, or VSP 6, which will soon be produced from planting materials in Tarlac.
The development of the sweet potato supply chain is now in full swing to meet the demand. This partnership with Max’s can also mean access to the company’s corporate social responsibility program that can benefit farmers both in production and processing.
With health and well-being as core values of the Max’s food chain, sweet potato is being produced using aloe vera cum seaweed-based soil enhancer and biopesticide.
VSU’s initial output with minimal solution application yielded 35 tons per hectare, which surpassed the target yield of the SP-ISP.
With Max’s and the DOST-PCAARRD’s partnership, sweet potato is emerging as an important component of the health-food industry in the country using the outputs of S&T, including varieties, production techniques and product applications that the science agency has long supported in its R&D with a strong belief in the potential of the crop.
Other players in the food industry are fast recognizing the potential of sweet potato. They are requesting information and assistance from the R&D community. Thus, the coming years will experience a big leap in technology transfer following the value-chain modality with the strong collaboration between the S&T community and industry.
Camote or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) has been known in the global market as a superfood. It is a starchy root crop loaded with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients; has low glycemic index; and quality dietary fiber.
The different flesh colors spell its nutrient load: white-flesh camote has more calcium; yellow to orange is loaded with beta carotene; while purple camote is high in anthocyanins. Its rich and dense nutrients manifest its antioxidant property.
Sweet potato grows in a wide range of environments. It has low-input demand and is garden-friendly since it can be easily grown for home food or extra livelihoods. Its form, quality and adaptability make it a climate-smart crop for food, feed and industry.
It took some time before camote received positive nod in the social circles in the Philippines. In the past, camote has been associated with poverty and low food status. It is even used as a derogatory term for slow-brained people.
Other than China, the US, Japan and South Korea, only in the recent decade has there been an emerging interest and excitement over sweet potato in the Philippines.
In the first decade of this millennium, the DOST-PCAARRD had supported S&T of sweet potato as part of food solution in disasters and emergencies, and continues to support the crop’s value chain in industry strategic programming.