In these times when farming has to be more efficient and more competitive locally and globally, the way to go is agricultural mechanization. There are many good reasons why.
In the provinces, there are times when harvesting has to be done fast because of a coming bad weather or for some other reasons. So what is needed is to harvest the crop pronto. For rice, for instance, if a strong typhoon is coming and the ripe grains have to be harvested posthaste, the answer is a combine harvester that will reap, thresh and bag the grains in just one operation.
That is very possible these days in some parts of the country, particularly in Isabela. In san Mateo, for instance, Baby Spowart operates a big rice farm. When we asked her if she has any problem hiring farm workers to harvest her crop, she immediately answered she has no problem at all.
She pointed out that in Isabela, there are so many people who own rice harvesting machines who will readily harvest your crop for a share of the harvest. Normally, the harvesters get 10 percent of the harvest. But because of the competition, contractors go down to as low as 7 percent. The grains are already threshed and bagged, delivered to the farm owner’s bodega.
Mechanical harvesters are not only fast. There are less post harvest losses incurred. There are many other farming operations that could be mechanized for greater efficiency. Even small scale farmers can benefit from the use of farm machines. For instance vegetable growers find the small machines distributed by some seed companies as a very efficient in land preparation
It is of course very heartening that in the coming Agrilink trade show on October 15-17 at the World Trade Center, we gather from information sent to us by the organizers of the event, PhilMech will be showcasing the latest technologies in agricultural mechanization.
To quote PhilMech executive director Rex Bingabing, “As we shift focus towards a globally competitive agricultural industry, we need to address challenges such as climate change and food security through self-sufficiency. Agricultural mechanization can help enhance farm yields, reduce postharvest losses and improve the volume of agricultural produce for consumers.”
The Department of Agriculture’s farm mechanization program has been distributing modern machines, providing technical assistance and training to farmers. The program has been responsible for the increase of farm machines in the provinces. For instance, in the case of rice harvesters, there were only 41 units in 2011. By 2014, the number of units has increased to 1,806.
PhilMech has also been conducting research, development and extension activities to develop technologies and production systems that could be used by farmers and fisher folk. These include multi-commodity solar tunnel dryers for coffee and soybean, a coconut water pasteurizer and chiller machine and others.
To make sure that local farmers have access to the machines, Phil Mech has started to localize the technologies to enhance their adaptation and make them more affordable for the farmers. Some of these include local mini rice combine harvester, mechanical rice transplanter, mechanical planters, compact mills and locally assembled sugarcane harvesters and fast dryers.
PhilMech is also involved in the DA’s banner programs in rice, corn, high value crops and organic agriculture through the distribution of farm machineries and developing postharvest facilities in major productive areas such as Cagayan Valley, SOCSKSARGEN and Northern Mindanao, the top three major producers of corn.
According to Bingabing, Cagayan Valley is among the highest in terms of adopting farm mechanization. Farms in Isabela are the first to adopt combine harvesters, procuring about 500 units between 2012 and 2014. With the national corn program, the DA is aiming to increase corn production and decrease postharvest losses from the current 7.2% to 5% by 2017.