Dragon fruit peel as extra income for Ilocos Norte and Nueva Ecija farmers

With the increasing production of dragon fruit in the Philippines, Central Luzon State University (CLSU) with Rare Eagles Forest Marine Development (REFMAD) Farms in Ilocos Norte, and SoaPure Incorporated in San Jose, Nueva Ecija developed a project titled, Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus undatus and Hylocereus polyrhizus) Peel Utilization and Product Development. This will serve as an avenue for local dragon fruit farmers to gain extra income by developing dragon fruit peel products that could be marketable for its nutrients and antioxidant components leading to livelihood improvement. 

Dragon fruit has numerous health benefits including calcium and phosphorus for bones and teeth, high in vitamin B for nervous system, antioxidants for glowing skin, and loaded with phyto albumins that prevent cancer. Additionally, the project’s objective is to utilize dragon fruit peels towards zero waste agriculture, and improve the healthy lifestyle of many Filipinos. 

The REFMAD Farms, a 30-hectare and first organic dragon fruit farm, showed interest in the technology transfer. “This led to the creation of the Association of Dragon Fruit Growers in the Philippines that is eyeing to expand 10,000 hectares of dragon fruit farms in five years to supply in the global market, as the Industry Road Map 2021- 2025 has started to take off”, said Edita Dacuycuy, owner of REMAD Farms. 

CLSU and REFMAD Farms validated the dragon fruit peels products to be commercially viable, and equally beneficial to health by conducting the test tube method, long method phytochemical screening, and thin layer chromatography to determine the phytochemical properties, and bioactive compounds of white (Hylocereus undatus) and red (Hylocereus polyrhizus) dragon fruits. 

Results showed that both varieties can be good sources of antioxidants, and might have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, confirming that these products can become commercially viable. 

In line with this, Dr. Dana Vera Cruz and her team under the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management of CLSU came up with the following: a) life bar, an energy bar with dragon fruit peel and oatmeal; b) dragondine syrup that can be used on cocktails, mocktails, and desserts; c) dragon fruit peel body scrub; d) handicrafts; e) dragon fruit peel castile liquid soap; f) dragon fruit peel facial mask; and g) vita peel gummies. 

CLSU also conducted a series Training of Trainers that enabled project staff to make proper freezing protocols for REFMAD Farms—ensuring that dragon fruit peels are fit for processing. 

Hindi na ito [dragon peel fruit] kailangan itapon ng mga farmers natin. Once the technology is transferred, they can actually utilize this and use it as additional revenue,” said Dr. Cruz. 

DA-High Value Crops Development Program, through DA-BAR, provided funding assistance to strengthen the promotion of ingenious products across the region. (### Diwa J. Velasquez)