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Innovation and entrepreneurship: students develop food products to strengthen MSMEs

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“I am very pleased and happy with the work the students did. They understood what I wanted. They innovated the product. I was surprised with the new presentation of the package and with the product. I’m very happy with this,” said Rebeca López, owner of the company, El Girasol, which develops soy-based products in Honduras.

The fourth-year students of the Food Science and Technology Department generated a feeling of satisfaction in business owners when they faced the challenge of leading the development of an innovative product for micro, small and medium export enterprises (MSMEs) of Honduras. Successful results were reflected in the products presented at the New Products Exposition that students held at ZAMORANO where the business owners were present.

The student’s work was based on solving problems facing these enterprises, such as surplus production, marketing and lack of customer interest in products. Students learned to work with a company, to meet their needs, meet quality criteria, safety regulations and they had to do research. This experience, which is part of their New Product Development class, gives them an added value in their capacity as Food Science and Technology professionals.

René Chigüila, a student from El Salvador, said that this experience allows them to apply the technical and scientific knowledge learned during four years of training. “Our group worked with the Inversiones Orgánicas, which is dedicated to the production of crops, including habanero pepper. Its owner, for market conditions, decided that it’s more convenient to commercialize a processed product rather than selling the fruit. “We developed a spicy sauce which has been accepted by the people, in an innovative packaging, aimed at a gourmet market,” said Chiguila.

Sandra Espinoza, Professor of Development of New Products, said that this is the second opportunity to support the national agribusiness community through the development of new products in this class. This year seven companies were benefited, in the departments of Olancho, Colón, Comayagua, Intibucá and Francisco Morazán. Espinoza commented, “This is an experience in which students have had to invest time in meetings with companies and work in their plants. The companies are satisfied with the work of the students.”

One of the developed products was a sweet potato puree for the Fundación Asistencial Sor María Rosa. This company develops business ideas and the profits are invested in education and housing for children with limited resources in the country. Their representative, Vicente Vásquez, explained that they exported sweet potato but a large portion of their product did not qualify to be exported.  They wanted to give this portion the added value of an export product, and were very pleased with the puree developed by students.

Hands-on learning

Third-year career students also have the experience of developing new products. Once again this year there was the Festival of Meat, Dairy, Fruits, Vegetables, Grains and Seeds products involving third-year students of the Food Science and Technology Department.  The Festival focused on innovative products solving nutritional problems of specific geographical areas.

Third and fourth-year students used the trial and error method to achieve a quality product. This is learning by doing which makes Zamorano students become distinguished professionals. This experience in real-world scenarios of work strengthens their theoretical knowledge and at the same time contributes to the development of their countries.

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