Industry is not new to our native culture. What is new is the volume of output, variety and efficiency of the processing methods and quality of the eventual outcomes made possible by contemporary manufacturing technologies.
This is especially as a result of the introduction of additives like industrial enzymes. A major challenge faced by contemporary industry in Nigeria is the dearth of local producers of intermediary products in the manufacturing chain; including enzymes. Investment in the local production of industrial enzymes for supply to end manufacturers is a potentially profitable venture choice that will enhance Nigeria’s industrial profile.
Culturally, local food manufacturers use spontaneous production methods which lack knowledge of the science behind the production process. The quality of the product is therefore often inconsistent. Modern food scientists, however, have been able to study food components, identify the chemical reactions and catalysts that take place when raw food staples are converted into desired finished products. For example, the local producer of ogi (pap) knows the ingredients to use and the processing steps to take. But since the science behind the processes have not been understood, he may not always vouch for a predictable consistency nor can processing time, taste and nutritional factors be manipulated to suit consumer demand.
The success of modern food processing methods is attributable to new knowledge on the role played by enzymes during chemical reactions and the acquisition of knowledge on how to reproduce these enzymes in large quantities. Enzymes are proteins that control chemical reactions. Mass production of enzymes for sale has helped modern industry to reduce production costs and speed up various manufacturing processes. What happens to maize when it is soaked for two days before it is ground, sieved and drained of water to produce pap? Food technologists have discovered that fermentation which takes place during the period when maize is soaked in water is made possible when enzymes called ferments are produced. However, depending on the quality or source of grains and other variables like temperature and so on, the desired fermentation may not occur within the anticipated time frame.
Fortunately, scientists have been able to isolate these enzymes, and reproduce them in the laboratory. This way, they have developed upgraded technologies that make food processing and other production processes manageable and reproducible at all times. According to a scientist with the Biotechnology Department, Federal Institute of Industrial Technology, Oshodi, Dr. Kunle Teniola, “The spontaneous approach used by local manufacturers leaves the producer with encumbrances but science gives the knowledge on how to break those encumbrances thereby saving time, attaining consistency and producing enhanced foods both in quantity, quality and presentation”
Today, industrially produced pap, for example, does not have to be soaked for two days. Packaged enzymes can now be introduced in certain measures into the corn to achieve predetermined grades of pap within minutes or hours. Colour, nutritional value and so on can also be manipulated to suit various consumer targets depending on age, nutritional needs and so on. The same goes for other production processes like brewing, production of fruit juices, ethanol production, bating of animal hides, improving dough during baking, etc.
Amongst the advantages of these upgraded technologies is the control it gives the manufacturer to determine the grade of the end product, the ability to eliminate undesirable elements from the procedures and introduce organisms that make beneficial contributions like improved nutritional or health benefits. Consistent and enhanced taste or texture is also guaranteed. For example, lactic acid, produced by the action of organisms like bacteria and yeast is introduced to achieve the typical sour taste and smell of ogi.
Presently, enzymes are not readily available for use by indigenous industry and since they are critical components of diverse production processes, manufacturers spend huge sums importing them. Available records from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council show that the nation spends about N200bn annually on importation of industrial enzymes. This led FIIRO, the agency that pioneered research into Cassava Inclusion for bread-making in Nigeria, to embark on research and development activities into local production of industrial enzymes. Their findings revealed that there are abundant, inexpensive sources of raw materials for the production of industrial enzymes which include agro-industrial waste materials like wheat bran, rice-bran, etc. A report by the Deputy Director, Analytical Services, FIIRO, Dr. A. K. Lawal, notes that some of the major industrial enzymes that have been extensively studied at the enzymes and genetics division of FIIRO include Amylases and Glucoamylases, Glucose Isomerase, Xylanases, Proteinases, Pectinases, and so on.
At present, FIIRO has developed processing technologies for production of industrial enzymes applicable in diverse industries waiting for adoption by local entrepreneurs. Director-General of the research institute, Dr. Gloria Elemo, says that commercialisation of these technologies will open a huge untapped investment opportunity for investors in Nigeria. Considering the huge market potentials of this industry, adoption of these technologies by local entrepreneurs will catalyse the spawning of many small scale industries to utilise agricultural wastes hitherto considered as a nuisance to create wealth and contribute to the alleviation of the nation’s disturbing unemployment and poverty burden.