ILOILO CITY -- What is considered by coconut farmers as waste can now be made into a nutritious organic vinegar.

Thanks to the invention of Dr. Lucita de Guzman of the School of Technology in the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas in Miagao, Iloilo, the water from matured coconuts harvested for copra and coconut oil production will no longer be thrown away.

The Ilongga scientist created the Fibrous Bed Bioreactor (FBB), a machine that introduces a different kind of fermentation technique that immobilizes cells of a bacteria called "Acetobacter aceti" on fibrous matrix (cotton or polyester) of a bioreactor to produce "acetic acid," commonly known as vinegar.

De Guzman said cotton and polyester cloth were used to confine the bacteria "Acetobacter aceti" injected into the bioreactor. Once the cells are immobilized, the FBB will serve as generator of cells needed for the fermentation of matured coconut water to vinegar.

She said that the fermentation process in the FBB is free of contamination, unlike in the traditional process where it is exposed to different kinds of contaminants.

Faster fermentation process

According to De Guzman, the fermentation process through the FBB is faster than that of the commercially-made vinegar, which can take up to one month. By using the FBB, the fermentation process can be done in 14 days.

"Pina-analyze namin sa Food and Drug Administration sa Manila yung aming vinegar (We asked the Food and Drug Administration in Manila to analyze our vinegar)," De Guzman said, adding that nutrients like sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium were found in the organically-produced vinegar.

De Guzman, with the funding from UP-Visayas, started the creation of the machine in 2005 and finished it in 2008. She was able to further improve the machine in 2012.

The invention, which was already patented by De Guzman and UP, was publicly introduced for the first time during the 21st Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop on December 5 at the UP-Visayas Miagao Campus in Iloilo province.

Helping the farmers

With the innovation, De Guzman said farmers can now have extra earnings, as matured coconut water will be bought from them. She added that "it will also have environmental benefits."

"Ang ibang farmers, basta nalang tinatapon kung saan-saan (ang matured coconut water). May mga inorganic constituents and organic as well, like sugar, kung too much sugar naman doon sa soil, hindi naman maganda ang (state) ng soil," De Guzman said.

Looking forward

De Guzman said trials will be made for larger production of vinegar using the FBB. She said the machine can help lessen the need of the Philippines to import acetic acid (vinegar) from other countries.

The FBB can also be used to produce other organic acids, biofuel products, wine, and alcohol, she said, adding that it "can also be an alternative treatment for wastewater from municipal households and small-scale industries, such as food and beverage." (SunStar Philippines)