Traditional tofu producers to use efficient boilers in Indonesia

April 24, 2017

Tofu producers will be breathing easier thanks to a project designed by the Central Java provincial government in Indonesia that was developed with the assistance of UNEP DTU during the Danida Fellowship Course (DFC) in 2016.

Tofu is a staple food in Indonesia, produced primarily by small and medium-sized traditional producers. Firewood is the main fuel used to cook the soybean paste, and when small-scale manufacturers process between 20 kg to 200 kg per day, the impact on indoor air, human health, and local natural resources becomes significant. Fortunately, there is an alternative to firewood. Small, efficient steam boilers do the job at a lower cost in terms of health, time and finances. In addition to saving valuable wood resources and improving indoor air quality, research shows that using boilers can reduce both cooking times and fuel use by approximately 50 percent.

Funded by the Danish Fellowship Centre, an engineer with the Indonesian provincial government’s Environmental Technology Development Team attended the Danida Fellowship Course and developed a project that changes tofu processing in a way that will both improve production conditions and reduce impacts on the local environment.

The Central Java Provincial Government has approved this project to install efficient boilers in traditional small and medium-sized tofu production businesses. During the two-week course with UNEP DTU Partnership, the specifics of the project were worked out. The boilers will be manufactured locally, employing staff and students at a local vocational high school, which will both lower production cost and create jobs. The pilot stage will involve six local businesses who are part of a local tofu producers group. The six companies will switch from using wood in open fires to medium-scale boilers that create steam for cooking.

While the initial financing will be provided by the Industrial and Trading Agency of the Central Java Provincial Government, in 2018 the project will become a commercial operation. Up until now, the initial cost of boilers has been a key barrier for local businesses, despite the short pay-back periods and health benefits. The locally made boilers will be much less expensive, costing around € 800 as compared to approximately € 3,000 for slightly larger imported technology. The idea is to use some of the cost savings collected from the businesses to help finance the continued roll-out of the boiler technology, combined with low-interest loans provided by the Province Bank, a partner in the technology switching venture.