Tofu and Tempe – loved all around the wold, but how are they produced?

Tofu is a popular ingredient of people’s diet all over the world. But have you ever wondered how their energy production footprint is in – let’s say – Indonesia? Well, there is potential for change.

Energy is so manifold linked to different areas of our daily lives like food, health, or water and far more that we often fail to realise the impact. So if you are interested in energy efficiency, improving health and livelihoods, and environmental protection, it’s time to talk about tofu and tempe production.

But what exactly is tempe as opposed to well-known tofu? It is a firm soy-based product similar to tofu and the most consumed protein source in Indonesia. It contains antioxidants, and has numerous health benefits, including reducing cholesterol and preventing hypertension. Tempe in Indonesia is a €700 million per year industry, yet the majority of producers are micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), most of which still operate under sub-standard, unhygienic conditions and use mainly firewood as fuel.

So much for “what is tempe”, but how are both products produced? REEEP has been supporting in the past year Mercy Corps Indonesia efforts to improve the industry and introduce clean production methods. With 210 producers have switched since the beginning of the project, the project has achieved more in its short timespan than originally anticipated.

Mercy Corps recently released a video demonstrating the success, the focus of which is a modern, sustainable pilot factory in southern Jakarta which serves as an example for the great opportunity for improving the environment and livelihoods throughout the sector in Indonesia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQTfXLRuzDA#t=606

Here is a quick overview of the video:

Boiling drums used in traditional production breed bacteria and are prone to rust which can contaminate the soybeans. Liquid waste is disposed of carelessly and wood fuel burning is inefficient and endangers the health of workers, filling the production area with smoke and ash. In addition, the traditional tempe industry in Indonesia produces approximately 29 million tonnes of carbon each year

Since 2012 Mercy Corps has facilitated the shift to a modernized tempe industry, with key transitions from wood fuel to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and from oil drums to stainless steel barrels. The pilot tempe factory featured in the video boasts a productivity level equivalent to twenty-two traditional enterprises. Production wastes have been consciously managed, even converting liquid wastes into biogas which can be reused in the production process, reducing the use of LPG by 35%. Overall production is more hygienic and follows strict quality measures, ultimately producing a better product.

Furthermore, the transition to modernized equipment has proven to be cost effective. Despite the initial investment, stainless steel barrels need only be replaced every 10 years, while oil drums require replacement every 4-6 months, ultimately incurring a higher cost. Likewise, switching to LPG is not only more cost effective than fuel wood, but more efficient in worker’s time finding the wood and downtime due to associated health consequences.

So it is clear: investment in the modernization of the tempe industry in Indonesia has economic, health, and environmental benefits while producing a better consumer product. Producers from all over the world have visited the Mercy Corps pilot factory to learn from their example, which has great potential for scaling up and accessing new markets such as restaurants and hotels.

Enjoy the video!

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