Blog #5


Members: Ami Yoshimura, Michelle Hu, Sammantha Powers, Jake Donoghue, Brianna Wanbaugh, Tri Nguyen, Brianna Cimaglia, Rozhin Zahrouni


Top 20 FAQs and Answers



  • What happens to the middlemen if you eliminate them in the supply chain? (Ami)


A: At this stage, we don’t have a concrete answer yet, because we are still in the development phase of our products. 



  • What is the scale of the coconut farms in the Philippines? (Tri)


A: The majority of coconut farms are small to medium sized (around 5 hectares / 40 – 100 trees per farm).



  • How will you implement your product in the Philippines? (Sammy)


A: We are not yet sure at this stage, as we do not currently have a definite business model since we are still developing our product. 



  • How do you know that there aren’t better antioxidants out there that are just as effective or more than the antioxidants that you are using now? (Rozhin)


A: We have done extensive research on many different potential antioxidants and have read many scientific articles and journals on them before coming into our conclusion of the top antioxidants for us to use on our experiments. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to know about all of the potential antioxidants that exist, however, we believe that from our research we have found the best ones that are available and cost-effective.



  • What are some of the current solutions to the aging tree problem in the Philippines? (Bri C)


A: There are replanting, intercropping, and education programs designed by the Philippines Coconut Authority to address these challenges.



  • How do you make sure the coconut farmers will benefit from your solution? (Tri)


A: We will provide coconut farmers the cost-effective technology to produce high-quality copra and higher-value added products that they can sell directly at a higher price, which will earn the farmers additional income.  



  • To what extent do coconut farmers have access to energy? (Tri)


A: It is noted that 6.1 million households (half of the rural population) have no electricity in the Philippines. Our investigation suggests that more than 30% of coconut farmers do not have access to the power grid.



  • How will this solution be sustainable? (Brianna W)


A:  We hope to partner with a company based in the Philippines that can continue to aid and distribute our solution after we leave the Philippines



  • How successful are efforts to address the aging tree problem? (Bri C)


A: The PCA has established a few programs to address this issue, but many of them are purely informational with little execution and direct aid to farmers. These programs have certainly helped inform farmers about the issues, but there has not been significant change.



  • How long will this copra & antioxidant experiment take? (Rozhin)


A: This is a two part experiment that has been started from July, however, since it was decided that better results were needed with improved procedure plans, the experiment will be restarting during the fall semester and will most likely finish before the end of the semester depending on the results found.



  • What do you expect to see in your experiments and what is the goal of the experiments? (Jake)


A: On the engineering side, the experiments are set up with the goal of optimizing air flow inside the drying chamber. We expect to gather data that will allow us to decide whether we should utilize horizontal or vertical airflow moving forward.



  •  What are your next steps for the venture? (Ami)


A: The next steps entail testing antioxidant solutions, prototyping the dryer, and submitting research proposals to a few conferences. 



  • What are you doing in your experiments currently and what is next? (Jake)


A: We are constructing benchmark prototypes of our drying chambers and comparing the effectiveness of horizontal vs. vertical airflow on drying time. The goal is still to uniformly dry all the coconut meat in the drying chamber as fast as we can, so whichever method works better is what we will include in our drying design moving forward. Once we have identified the optimal air flow method, we will move to experimenting and designing our heating source and heat exchange mechanisms. 



  • Why are you doing this experiment and how do these antioxidants work on the copra? (Rozhin)


A: The current problem is the copra browning which reduces their financial value because of their unappealing visual quality, even if they are safe to consume and use even for other means. The browning of the copra occurs from a chemical reaction from its exposure to oxygen, known as enzymatic browning. The enzyme that plays the major role in this chemical reaction is called Polyphenol Oxidase (PPO) and another major enzyme that contributes to the enzymatic browning and is involved with the internal browning is called Peroxidase. Therefore, this reaction can be prevented from occurring through the application of higher acidity (pH<4), which lowers the chances of oxidation of the food and causing the enzymatic reaction to occur. Moreover, the copra also needs to have antimicrobial protection, so that they can last longer and prevent spoiling. Since the best antioxidants that we have chosen from our research are both acidic and have antimicrobial properties (which we also plan on combining the best ones together to create an even stronger antioxidant preservative), they are one of the best natural and cost-effective preservation methods for us to use on the copra.



  • Why are natural antioxidants being used instead of cheaper alternatives? (Rozhin)


A: Natural antioxidants are the best materials to use as preservatives of copra as this will make it safe and have no/less harmful side effects than other chemical or other cheaper alternatives. Natural antioxidants are the next best option, from their effective protection against oxidation and microbes, in comparison to more expensive preservation treatments (e.g. freeze drying), so they are the best option considering their ease of access, effectiveness, and reduced cost.



  • How do you imagine implementing these antioxidants into the supply chain and how will the farmers gain access to them? (Rozhin)


A: We are still in the process of determining which antioxidants will be used for preservation, so we have yet to know the full logistics of when and how they will be incorporated into the supply chain. We imagine that the antioxidants will be either sold to the farmers in packages or the farmers will be taught how to make those antioxidants treatment themselves (depending on the antioxidants chosen as preservatives).



  • How will the optimal antioxidants be integrated into the engineering team’s product? (Sammy) 


A: The antioxidants will be included in the drying and preserving process, though we are not sure exactly how until we discover more through our experiments. We are still determining if the antioxidants will be put on the copra before or after drying, and if they will be included as a part of our product, or if they will be sold separately.



  • How will you be able to scale this effectively? (Ami)


A: By improving one niche/aspect of the drying process and building a better drying solution with affordable materials, accessibility will be easier. We also have connections in the Philippines who could help with distribution. 



  • How likely is it that farmers will take to this kind of solution? (Jake)


A: This is something that we still need to figure out. Given that our project is in early stages, and that we have not been able to conduct field work, it has been rather difficult to gauge interest in our ideas. 



  • Why are we choosing the specific antioxidants we are using?  (Michelle)


A: All the specific antioxidants  we are using are all cost effective so it will not be another hardship on the farmers. Also all of these antioxidants do not affect the taste of the copra or the texture and they are accessible.

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