Over the last two months the Agrifood Technology Station has had the pleasure of interacting with two entities involved with community engagement, upliftment and creating employment. Beside the Technology Innovation Agency mandate for Technology Stations overtly being Innovation Support and Technology Transfer, a less emphasized element of the overall mandate is that of collaboration with other entities, stimulating growth of businesses and also creation of employment. In 2018, another such collaboration had taken place with Food Forward SA (see blog here).
The first entity engaged in this was in 2019 was Abalimi Bezekhaya, an NPO involved with food gardening in the greater Cape Town area. Beside providing micro-farming advisories, this also translates to production of food at home and in the community. Their Harvest of Hope program also connects the market to these small farmers, allowing them to earn an income in the process.
However, because of small glitches between production quantities and sales made, there is often surplus produce left which, because of its generally short shelf-life, either goes to waste or is sold as animal feed at a pittance. Mr. Zukile Malusi described elements of the challenge faced and suggested that ATS could possibly help in two specific ways:
1. Assist with accepting and hosting the processing of excess materials at CPUT in the Pilot Plant;
2. Simultaneously assist with offering basic training dealing with washing raw material, conversion to a secondary or tertiary product, appropriate packaging materials, storage conditions and shelf-life awareness. Presently this is being planned between the two parties and we hope that this will eventually be realized with benefits to all parties concerned.
A second happy confluence of events and people happened via a visit by Abalobi ICT4Fisheries in the form of Ms. Jackie Sunde. In a very similar fashion to that with Abalimi Bezekhay, they required assistance with seafood processing, product development, food safety, packaging and marketing. This included the need for training to make women involved in coastal fishing communities more able to add value to their harvest of seaweed and other edible organisms.
The Department of Food Science & Technology attended an initial briefing meeting in St. Helena Bay where participants from both the west and south coast were represented. Prof. Jessy Van Wyk and Dr. Suné Henning presented the potential from the side of CPUT to offer appropriate assistance. This was estimated to include, but is not limited to:
1. Training involving hygienic handling and process of marine products. This happens to be a speciality of Dr. Henning since she had developed material and conducted training for trout harvesting and processing for small aquaculture farmers in the areas surrounding Cape Town. This aroused the interest of all participants who indicated a dire need for such.
2. It was also proposed that this eventually morph into a Service Learning project under Dr. Henning’s management, another arrow in her quiver of academic offerings. Service Learning involves credit-bearing work undertaken with registered students in different communities.
3. A link was also made to the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC) which is presently managed by ATS on behalf of the national Department of Science & Technology. It was proposed that the Centre Coordinator make contact with the community through appropriate channels in order to document such indigenous knowledge for recording and protection by DST on behalf of the community for further beneficiation. Sharing of this information was well-received by the community, since the members who attended the St. Helena Bay event were given the assurance that the recordal of any Indigenous Knowledge by the IKSDC will not jeopardise their ownership/ benefits of the Indigenous Knowledge in any way.
4. ATS had also suggested that a drying bin developed at CPUT for by-catch processing also be considered for rolling out in the community, possibly together with the partner organization that participated in the process.
So, very soon, a second meeting is to be held with the west coast community where a little more detailed information will be given in terms of potential elements of the project which will be rolled out over time. This includes training workshops on both the west and south coast.
It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling when we can assist people and communities in this way, over and above the hardcore technology innovation expected of us!