Jamaica’s best-kept secret is over 40 years old and research is the hallmark and mainstay of its existence.
Since its establishment in 1960, The Scientific Research Council (SRC), has made good on its mandate to “collect, collate and review information concerning scientific research schemes or programmes relevant to the development of the resources of Jamaica (and) to establish and maintain a scientific information centre for collection and dissemination of scientific and technical information.”
All in a days work. Cheryl Green, research scientist at the Scientific Research Council holds up the oil she has just extracted from the rosemary plant using hydro-distillation.
But the secret is out and has been circulating for a while trumpeted by Marketech Limited, the council’s subsidiary responsible for marketing business development and communication functions.
Marketech (short for the Marketing of Technology) facilitates linkages and strategic alliances with internal and external customers to facilitate the development and transfer of technologies. Its communication activities use innovative and interesting means to disseminate science and technology information, and promote the services and products of the SRC.
Twice in a lifetime: Quality Control Officer at the Scientific Research Council’s Tissue Culture Unit, Nateisha Dennis monitoring tissue cultured plants in the Council’s growth room.
Communications Manager for the SRC/Marketech, Rosie Fisher tells JIS News about the SRC’s recent foray into the development of a local sorrel industry, which has created benefits to farmers of sorrel and other agricultural materials such as sugar, ginger, mango, guava, spices, and service providers such as labourers, truckers, processors, packers and distributors.
The SRC successfully developed a suite of sorrel products under the ‘Hope Gardens Jamaica’ label, namely: Hope Gardens Jamaica Sorrel Squash, Guava Sorrel Squash, Mango Sorrel Squash, Sorrel Chutney – spicy and original flavours, sorrel liqueur, sorrel topping and two sorrel sauces. She points out that the ultimate focus is to have sorrel become not just a Christmas time treat but also an “all year round” indulgence.
So far the SRC has divested the pepper jelly and chutney to Walkerswood Caribbean Foods who have been working to make the products accessible on the local and international market.
At present, she says, Marketech is in dialogue with another entity for the divesting of the squash.
Ms. Fisher notes that Sorrel “has taken off” its flight driven by research which has shown that it is rich in antioxidants and can aid in the fight against certain diseases, especially cancer. As such, she says many farmers have extended their production of sorrel.
At present the SRC exports sorrel to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States with an eye on the rest of the European Community, the aim being to tap into the large ethnic market.
“We can’t be all things to all people but when we develop the sorrel industry with all the different value added what you are creating are some backward linkages and some forward linkages,” Ms. Fisher notes.
As diverse as the discipline, which it seeks to promote, the SRC in 2003 released four new, traditional Jamaican, soups: gungo peas with and without meat and red peas with and without meat made from local raw materials and spices. These products were sold to the Jamaican Agro-Processors Association.
Ms. Fisher informs that the soups which are canned, have been well received by the overseas market as it is a convenience type food and grows particularly attractive during the colder months as all they require is reheating.
Other products developed by the SRC involve the use of breadfruit, yam and potato to make flour and chips; fruits such as mango, pineapple and june-plum to make jams and jellies and bananas to make figs.
Furthermore, Jamaican taste buds far and wide are being tantalized by the SRC’s line of Jerk sauces and seasons, smoked and jerked meat and ice cream flavours some of which have been divested to several local entities.
The Communication Manager says research focusing on essential oils is currently under way for the Nutraceutical Industry.
Another feather in the SRC’s cap is its Wastewater Management Project, which seeks to significantly reduce the adverse impact that the discharge of wastewater from industrial and commercial activities can have on economically important natural resources and eco-systems through the application of anaerobic technology. Anaerobic technology is the process of treating wastewater without using oxygen. Many countries in Europe and Latin America utilize this technology, which treats wastewater in an environmentally friendly manner, facilitating its use for irrigation or its return to water bodies without polluting them.
The project has assisted several communities and companies to manage their waste by providing technical assistance and training and building biodigesters and septic tanks to replace soak away pits.
It has assisted with waste management of commercial/industrial and domestic waste in the recent establishment of a waste reception facility in the Kingston Harbour, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, The Cement Company of Jamaica’s Rockfort Plant as well as for housing developers and contractors. Ms. Fisher says the SRC has also helped with the building of pilot plants for the sugar industry.
Organic fertilizer and biogas (source of alternative energy) are products of the biodigester system.
Biogas is cheaper than other sources of fuel, such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and electricity.
She tells JIS News that one success story so far has been the installation of a biodigester system at the John Basco boy’s home in Hatfield, Manchester, where the treatment plant has enabled the treatment of farm and animal waste in an environmentally friendly manner, which allows the production of biogas. The gas from this is used to supply energy for their operational and domestic purposes and the residue used as a soil conditioner/fertilizer.
She informs that a similar plant has been developed for the SRC itself and would soon be officially launched.
A series of alliances has helped the SRC to better allocate scarce resources, carry out joint research activities and share information. There is a research consortium, involving the SRC, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Northern Caribbean University (NCU), the Institute of Management and Production and the University of Technology in addition to Memoranda of Understanding with the Bureau of Standards, NCU and UWI and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE).
The council also offers Tissue culture technology services and has an analytical laboratory where they do analysis of soil content among other things.