Got Peanut Oil?

From MFK  Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist, Ryan Welby

MFK’s primary concern with agriculture development is with raising awareness of the dangers of aflatoxin contamination and developing an understanding of how to eradicate aflatoxin from the local food supply. (Aflatoxins are dangerous carcinogens that are produced by certain molds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.) We have also realized that, despite our best efforts, aflatoxin will be present in Haiti for the foreseeable future. This posed the question: what can we do, in the meantime, with these toxic peanuts? Research has shown that aflatoxin will separate from peanut oil during production, leaving the oil free from aflatoxin contamination. In December, the MFK Agriculture team conducted a research trial to gauge MFK’s capacity to engage in peanut oil production and assess its viability for product commercialization.

The trial lasted three days and the team assessed the amount of peanuts that can be processed per hour; amount of oil produced per kilo of peanuts, and assessed the quality of the oil produced. We discovered that our machine processes peanuts that have had their skin removed at a rate of 10kg per hour faster than those with their skins. From this information we can begin to compare the cost of deskinning peanuts in relation to their final production value and assess whether or not skinning them is cost effective. We were also able to understand how much man power was required to produce oil. On the first day of the trial we employed five people to operate machinery but soon realized that we only need three to effectively run the trial. As a result, we were better able to estimate the cost associated with producing oil as a full time activity.

We are currently testing the raw peanut samples extracted from the sacks of peanuts: first, to measure the exact aflatoxin content; and second, to test a random sampling of the oil and the pulp residue to measure the discrepancy in our sampling method. We assume that the pulp will contain the true aflatoxin levels of the peanuts in a given sack. By comparing this number to the number in the random sample we hope to be able to gauge the error to what the sampling error is in our method.  Please check back soon to read about the conclusion of the aflatoxin testing.