Swiss and Philippine delegations celebrate project’s success    

14.12.2022 A joint research for development (r4d) project came to an official end in Biel yesterday after four years of international collaboration. 

Austausch in Biel: «Das erste Mal seit Beginn des Projekts, dass wir alle philippinischen Partner in der Schweiz versammeln konnten», sagte Projektleiter Sauro Bianchi.
Meeting in Biel: “It was the first time since the project started that we could gather all the partners from the Philippines in Switzerland,” project leader Sauro Bianchi said.

The Pinoy Tannin project (from Pinoy = Philippine in local slang) set up the basis for the development of a sustainable tannin extraction value chain in the Philippines. 

Tannins – organic substances found in plant tissues and barks – are commonly used to make leather and wood adhesives. Currently, per year, about 1000 tonnes of tannin are imported into the Philippines from South Africa or Brazil for use mainly in the wood industry. 

The closing event was attended by members of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Philippine Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI).

Project goals 

The project pursued two main aims: 

  • To stop side streams from the local forestry and agriculture value chains, such as coconut husk and tree bark, from simply going to waste; 

  • To create economic opportunities for low-income farmers.  

In the long-term, the project outcomes should contribute to sustainable land use and afforestation, and the creation of new job opportunities among local rural communities. 

Projektverantwortliche der BFH-HAFL: Melanie Feurer.
The BFH-HAFL coordinator on the project: Melanie Feurer.

Pioneer facility 

Presentations from the four-year joint venture showcased the steps involved in the identification of available tannin-rich biomasses, the setting up of a pilot extraction facility for the identified biomasses, and the testing of the efficacy of the extracts in wood adhesive and preservative formulations. 

More details about the project outputs will be announced in January. 

Project leader Sauro Bianchi, from BFH-AHB, said having the Philippine delegation in Biel was the perfect way to close the project. 

“It was the first time since the project started that we could gather all the partners from the Philippines in Switzerland,” he said. “The exchange was really worthwhile, and served as inspiration - on both sides - to tackle the challenge of upcycling agroforestry waste through low-end and really sustainable innovations.” 

Sauro Bianchi described the positive results which have come from the pilot tannin-extraction facility located at the PCA offices in Zamboanga, Mindenao. 

“Laboratory-scale plywood samples were successfully produced, using coconut husks, and passed most of the international standards for exterior use applications,” he reported. “Extracts were also successfully used in the manufacturing of Cocoboards. These coconut husk-based fibreboards were developed in a previous research project and are now going to be launched on the market by the BFH spin-off ‘NaturLoop’.”

Workshop participants: Deane Harder, Markus Schär, and Catherine Masacayan.
Workshop participants: Deane Harder, Markus Schär, and Catherine Masacayan.

The importance of collaboration

Melanie Feurer, the BFH-HAFL coordinator on this project, went to the Philippines several times. She explained that the evolution of this collaboration highlighted the importance of involving government entities to understand and foresee policy processes. 

“To avoid using native tree species, which are protected under law, we focused on exotic species promoted by the government for reforestation, and on coconut, the most available biobased product from Philippine agroforestry,” Melanie Feurer said. 

“However, field research in the frame of this project showed that the exotic species plantations provided limited actual raw material for a tannin value chain. 

“Therefore,” Feurer concluded, “we deferred from using tree bark as a source of tannin and focused more on coconut husk because it is a suitable and currently widely available material.” 

The Pinoy Tannin project was supported by the r4d programme promoted by the Swiss National Science Foundation and was based on the collaboration of various departments at Bern University of Applied Sciences, the Forest Products Research and Development Institute, Visayas State University, and the Philippine Coconut Authority.

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Subject area: Agriculture + Forest, Forest, Civil Engineering + Architecture
Category: Research