Carrageenan firm’s new thrust: Nanotechnology, new facilities
(Second of two parts)
When Benson Dakay passed away in 2012, the survival of his carrageenan company, Shemberg group, was in doubt as his children took over the task of leading the company out of dire straits.
The eldest son, Pierre Collin Dakay, had already joined the company two years before his father passed away. As for the youngest daughter, Mary Ann Rose “Meme” Dakay, she worked for the company five days after her father was laid to rest.
She was made to choose to continue her schooling or work for the company. She chose to work for the company because her dad’s legacy and the fate of Shemberg were at stake.
She took on the job as the company’s managing and creative director. She and her other siblings had to make adjustments like for her — waking up early so that she could be at the office at 8 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m.
While Meme has not been able to complete her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering, this has influenced her in coming up with new thrust for Shemberg.
She cited the need for the company to look towards the future and look for more opportunities for carrageenan.
Meme said the company recognizes the potential of nanotechnology particularly in developing new applications for carrageenan.
In a recent talk with TEDxESADE held at Barcelona, Meme talked about a research conducted on a new application for carrageenan.
She explained that the five-year research is conducted by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) using nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology, she said, deals with the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.
The PNRI research, headed by Cebuana scientist Dr. Lucille Abad, has developed a plant growth promoter, a fertilizer than can increase harvest yield by 60 percent.
Meme stressed that this is an exciting development for the company as they look forward to more innovative uses for carrageenan.
She also gave some data on how things changed in the six years since she and her siblings took over the management of the company.
The company’s employee engagement and performance improved by 20 percent and also saw an increase in customer satisfaction.
In the past two years, the company improved its processes and has developed 18 new product applications.
New $4M facility
On top of these achievements, the company has already started building its new facility that it will start using once it is completed in July.
The company is investing $4 million in the facility, including the building and the equipment. The facility will enable them to be a showcase of how a modern carrageenan factory should be.
In fact, the company is willing to open its doors to students who would like to learn what the industry is all about. Shemberg group also plans to diversify and invest in real estate projects.
However, to be able to make a difference, she believes that the carrageenan sector needs a more inclusive approach to industry growth.
A united effort on the part of industry stakeholders will help boost growth for the carrageenan sector, said Meme, who now wears several hats in the company as managing and creative director, vice president, chief operating officer and new business development officer.
For the industry to grow, she says that they need to open up new markets such as non-food applications such as fertilizer, venture into the mold market, and even take on nanotechnology.
(Updated on 18:50 P.M. 22/05/2018)
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