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When science meets beer

Published on 23rd May 2014


VSA volunteer Ken Wong and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa have found a tasty way to put money in Samoan farmers’ pockets.

You can’t go far in Samoa without seeing a breadfruit tree, and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) has been looking into new ways to use the ubiquitous tropical fruit.

 

With help from VSA volunteer Ken Wong, they’ve developed a system for drying and processing the breadfruit into a gluten-free flour. While that’s currently being tested by bakers, it’s already been put to use by Vailima Breweries in a special-edition beer.

 

Breadfruit breadfruit

From the tree...

Breadfruit brewery

...to the glass.

 

Made to celebrate the brewery’s 35th anniversary last year, Vailima Natural uses the breadfruit product in place of traditional malt. Spokesperson Sean Hellisloe said that the Brewery usually imports around a million kilos of malt each year, but had replaced about 12% of that with locally grown breadfruit. He told ABC Radio Australia that “it's first and foremost about using local ingredients, about reducing our reliance on imported grain and… rather than shipping ingredients from halfway across the Pacific, we're replacing it with breadfruit from our backyard, that's supporting our local farmers and also the local researchers which have developed the breadfruit flour.”

 

Vailima has continued to promote the special brew, but can’t produce it in any great quantity yet as the breadfruit flour project is still in the pilot stage. Ken says “we are still working to get the supply chain organised.” At the moment, there’s a bottleneck in the system, as the fruit needs to be dried quickly after picking to keep it stable for processing. That means farmers have to get the fruit to SROS immediately, if they can, and SROS have limited drying capabilities.

 

To get round this, Ken explains that “SROS is looking to help farmers supply the breadfruit in a partially processed condition that could be conveniently transported from rural regions for trade.”

 

Ken is hopeful that Samoa Brewery’s involvement could jump-start that process, as such a potentially large buyer “would encourage investors to pursue the processing of breadfruit and provide some stability in the market for trading processed breadfruit products.”

 

Breadfruit Ken Wong

Ken in the breadfruit lab.

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