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  • Feature
    SRC Process Development Team Leader, Annaleise Aiken.
    Photo: Contributed

    The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is inviting interested manufacturers to utilise its milling and drying services as a means of increasing their business productivity.

    Since the Industrial Revolution, milling and drying have been lucrative ways of processing food and repurposing common crops to last longer for wider distribution.

    “Today, milling and drying is a multibillion-dollar industry globally. There are several business opportunities for the use of milled products, including flours, spice mixes, herbal teas and supplements. For many agro-processors, this is an attractive business venture and the SRC, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, offers this service at an affordable rate,” SRC Process Development Team Leader, Annaleise Aiken, tells JIS News.

    Soursop leaves dried by the SRC prior to milling, which will later be used in teabags.

     

    Milling is defined as a unit operation that transforms solid particles into smaller ones by applying forces such as shear, compression, friction, collision or impact. Milling processes can be used for making flour or for extracting gluten and starch (wet milling) from grains and cereals. Drying refers to the food preservation method where foods are dehydrated or desiccated.

    Ms. Aiken explains that the process of milling and drying extends the shelf life of products and it also allows for greater retention of flavour, making it an excellent processing/preservation method for export products.

    “Milling and drying is also a useful way of creating value-added products from surplus crops, such as fruits that may have otherwise gone to waste. Many products from this process have been used as snacks, such as dried fruits, or utilised as key ingredients in confectionaries,” she says.

    Milled products from the SRC of various particle sizes prepared and ready for distribution.

     

    Dried Sarsaparilla in preparation for the milling process.

     

    Ms. Aiken notes that the SRC charges as low as $1,800.00 per hour for drying and $30.00 per kilogram for milling.

    Persons can also request each service independent of the other.

    “Clients can bring in as little as one kilogram of product for milling and drying, but it is recommended that they start with at least five kilograms of raw material to reduce the percentage of product loss,” she advises.

    The SRC utilises a steam dryer, which has a load capacity of approximately 80 kilograms, but drying times will vary from product to product. Materials that are typically brought in for this service include spices, herbs, roots/tubers, fruits, as well as endemic plants which are thought to have health benefits.

    “The SRC currently receives approximately 10 to 18 clients per month and can mill as much as 120 kilograms of dried product daily. We’ve had clients who have been utilising this service for years, some for over a decade, and they will tell you that this is an area that has been performing extremely well for them,” Ms. Aiken says.

    “For many locals who have watched their income streams dissipate due to various factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, there still exist pockets of opportunities through agro-processing (milling and drying). The SRC is equipped with the tools to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with such production to bolster or generate a well-needed income,” she adds.

    Ms. Aiken shares that despite the current pandemic, the global market for dry milling has projected continuous growth for this industry.

    As recorded by Reportlinker.com, the milling and drying industry is estimated at US$72.5 billion and is projected to reach a revised size of US$94.7 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 3.9 per cent over the period 2020-2027.

    “The milling service is actually in high demand with SRC. We receive between 945 to 1,190 kilograms of raw material for milling monthly, including gluten-free alternatives to flour, such as cassava and sweet potato flours,” she reports.

    Ms. Aiken highlights that the Government has many programmes and projects geared at helping SMEs, and the SRC is proud to be one of the entities that execute these programmes.

    Persons interested in accessing SRC’s milling and drying facilities may contact the Scientific Research Council at (876) 977-2192 or (876) 927-1771-4. The SRC also offers consultancy and technical support to persons interested in establishing their milling and drying facilities.

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