Wednesday, May 2, 2012


REHABILITATION (AGAIN) OF TAMAN JAYA LAKES I am not at all impressed by the continuous futile efforts in trying to rehabilitate the Taman Jaya Lakes. I see the problem could be solved only by thorough understanding of science and engineering processes involved. This means thorough scientific studies and experimental studies in the laboratories as well as in the field before proper permanent action and solution can be carried out. The absence of quantitative data or statistics is a serious error. In the world of business and sales talks the ‘promises’ should not be accepted wholesale. Once the business deal is signed that will be probably the last you will ever see the salesmen or their knockings on the door The gimmick of the boat tide involving important officers high above is just a waste of time and a cheap publicity stunt. The lake is not even that big……. Remember! Cleaning the Taman Jaya lake is not as simple as a ‘Micky Mouse Project’ Type rest of the post here. Read more!

Monday, January 30, 2012


It is sad to observe that most students or even researchers in fermentation technology, downplay the importance of viscosity of the fermentation broth and the choice of the right impeller. They seem to have the opinion that viscosity characterization and impeller design and configuration is not crucial to the optimization of the fermentation process. They are led in the blind belief that that the Rushton impeller is the best for all situations. Perhaps they are not aware there are many critical designs of impellers which is not only making mixing efficient but even optimizing in terms of energy saving and costs. This is especially crucial now where the cost of energy in increasing all the time which could make or break the economics of the fermentation industries
Every impeller has its own unique characteristics in terms of its mixing, flow. One impeller does not suit all! We have to determine the choice of proper impeller by carrying laboratory experimental studies.

There is usually a change in impeller design as the viscosity increases. Usually under low viscosity fermentation broth the common choice of impellers are propellers and flat blade impellers. But as the viscosity increases the choice of impellers are more towards gte anchors and helical screws or ribbons

The analyses of the viscosity of the fermentation broth are crucial at this stage of determination. We have to determine its rheological pattern and the changes of viscosity with time in coming with the right impeller. But most often this is not done…. It is a known fact viscosity changes with time in any fermentation process. A good fermenter which is energy efficint should hav a stirrer which is adaptable to changes in viscosity

The obsession is more on scaling up studies without fully understanding the scaling up process, and to rely on rules of the thumb.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011


If I am not mistaken, this is the second time when the possibility of using algae in biotechnology exploitation is receiving massive publicity. In the early seventies the focus is more in the production of SCP or single cell protein for animal feed. Nowadays, there is more talk about getting biofuel from the algal cells.
In theory this is a good idea as algal cells in the presence of light used photosynthesis to use carbon dioxide and release oxygen. In return not only you get the spin off benefits which are not only environmental friendly but even produce products as the substrate for fermentation to generate energy. It is simply a great ‘win- win’ situation for all.
However, in reality things are simply not as easy as it looks. From the point of mass culturing of the algal cells we have to depend on special bioreactors or fomenters called photo bioreactors. It is the kind of bioreactor where the algal culture are grown and mixed or circulated under conditions of light source to illuminate the algal culture for its source of energy.
The problems of bioreactors are clearly more seen at the level of scale up or using industrial size photobioreactors
At a large scale there are going to be problems faced in photo bioreactors. As we know the ideal photobioreactor is to get well mixed condition that encourage mass transfers. It is clear that there will be problems faced due to the lack of mechanical stirrers to carry out this job.
Using mechanical stirrers might create problems of shear forces which can break up the algal cells.
There is also the problem of supplying carbon dioxide mass transfers to supply to the algal cells at the scale of large photobioreactors
Light penetration into the medium is a real engineering biochallenge. Algal cell as suspended solids tend to block the penetration of light to all the algal cells.
The medium used for the algal cultivation must also clear enough to allow light penetration while at the same time provide nutrients to the algal cells
Sad to say, despite the potential or promises that algal cells can be used for biofuel it is still basically studies carried on laboratory scale and require a lot more research and heavy capital investments
Just because you are living in the sunny tropical country doesn’t always guarantee that the cultivation of algal cell by photo bioreactors is practical!!!

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Monday, November 28, 2011


Due to the popularity of subjects like biotechnology, microbiology, bioprocess engineering, there are now many public and private universities offering such courses. Most of these courses or degrees have fermentation technology as a subject in their degree.
But if we bother to surf the websites for additional information and curricula on fermentation technology, we will find that despite the universality of the subject the syllabus varies and so are their fermentation technology facilities.
Some of the laboratories seemed so empty and lacking serious equipments!!!
Surprisingly in most of these universities they do not have sufficient or even fermenters. The practicals or subject of fermentation technology is more a food microbiology course with practicals involving alcoholic fermentation or tapai
What is even more disturbing is the basic subjects needed to do fermentation technology vary. Either the department has no idea what is the basic subject requirement for the fermentation technology course or that they just try to fit any existing subjects into the course. Whether these subjects are relevant is secondary
I often wonder how the division in the education ministry in charge of ensuring the quality of the degrees gives the approval for these courses.
The tragic thing is that most students will not be able to learn fully the subject and even if they worked in the industries they will be laughed at….by their sheer ignorance of the subject.
So don’t blame anyone if they become pseudo fermentation technologists as they are taught by pseudo lecturers and pseudo departments in fermentation technology

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Sunday, November 27, 2011


Many food fermentation industries are facing the problem of when is the right time to terminate a fermentation process and how to terminate the fermentation process?. A fermentation process will keep going on and on until the substrate runs out or there are changes which occur in the fermenting food product which will lead to the slowing down and even the cessation of the fermentation process.
In many food and beverage fermentation once the desired fermentation product is achieved in terms of its nutritional, organo leptic properties, the fermentation broth or the product need to undergo downstream activities such as bottling and repackaging the product.
If the fermentation product is liquid or contain water, there is possibility that even after repackaging or bottling the fermentation process in the bottle or package might still continue. In view of this the continuing fermentation process might still continue changing the biochemical characteristics of the products.
In situation like this how the fermented product is kept under low temperature is important. It is important that the expiry date is adhered to
Then why don’t we just terminate the fermentation process itself? This is easier said than done. The question is how do we terminate the fermentation process? Will the process affect the quality of the fermentation product itself?
Many of the industries producing the fermentation products keep the secret of their fermentation process. Its not so much of the microorganism but the strains it used. They are not keen in allowing their strains in the fermentation products be released to public for free by just buying a few cents of yogurt.
It is important in their case that the strains used will die or becomes non viable once the fermentation is completed. How they do this is their trade secret. However a good microbiologist will be able to reisolate the strain 
Most of the fermentation process is ‘terminated’ by a few available technology such as manipulating the temperature or even using chemicals to inhibit the fermenting microorganisms without affecting the fermentation products.

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Friday, November 25, 2011


The small cottage industries producing fermented foods are facing their greatest challenges today. Not only they have to face the shrinking market due to competition from bigger or medium size fermentation industries, but they are also facing the barriers and limitations enforced by health and GMP. They have no choice that in order to survive they have to expand their market and even going global
However, being in the traditional fermentation industries, small in size and output they lack the capital support and even the scientific technical expertise to ensure their survival. Traditional fermentation cottage industries too are recalcitrant to changes, still practicing the same method of production of their ancestors
They can survive as they are now but they will not be able to expand their market and will always retain their small niche in the market.
Only by increasing their size of production, improving their fermentation process technology can they hope to compete successfully
There are few possibilities they can do to survive:
1 Pooling together of resources by cooperatives to increase the volume of fermented food
2By forming a consortium they can afford to improve their fermentation facilities and employ food scientists to optimize their production
3 pooling together will allow them to invest in expensive scientific equipment and improve their technology of production
4 pooling together will eliminate competition among themselves and instead form a synergy to compete with bigger players
5 pooling together will allow them to acquire transportation to distribute wider their goods and increase the market
They should realize that the big industry players were once small cottage fermentation industries like them but they are willing to risk and take the step further

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Thursday, November 24, 2011


It is generally accepted that educational visits to fermentation factories formed part and parcel of the course in fermentation technology. The objectives of the visits are more towards appreciating and reinforcing the understanding of fermentation technology being applied from what is learned in the lecture halls and the laboratories to real life situations in the fermentation industries
On one hand the visits by colleges and universities are often welcomed by the factories as it forms part of the public relations image and good marketing strategy. It also help to contribute positively to the education of fermentation technology.
However on the other hand, such visits are often regarded as ‘irritation’ to the factory management as there may be ‘secrets’ to hide from the probing eyes and minds of the visitors. The fear of being discovered in coveringcertain aspects of the production process could be disastrous especially nowadays with the ease of information being disseminate through the internet
The fermentation are happier if the visits for the fermentation technology students are the usual ‘walk and pass through’ sessions with little or no probing into the intimate details of the fermentation process. It is not often in their best interests to ‘tell all’ the details of the fermentation process.
So often it is not surprising the information given to the fermentation technology students are the same given to the public, school students and even the kindergarten students!
All will be happy with the visit where they will be served refreshments and ‘goody’packages containing samples of the fermentation products
But sadly, this is not benefitting to the fermentation technology students. Thy came there to visit, to understand and to learn.
In situations like this the fermentation technology students visiting the factories must be prepared to ask important aspects of the fermentation technology that is applied into the industrial process.
It is ideal before the visits are carried out the lecturer in charge brief the students what to expect and the questions that they should be looking into. At the end of the day detailed reports should be submitted to be examined.
In such cases the class should be divided into sub groups to look into various aspects of the fermentation process and the results combined together

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