Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cambodia: Laser leveling reintroduced

The Department of Agricultural Engineering (DAEng) demonstrated laser leveling in the rice fields of Don Bosco School and Toul Samrong Agricultural Engineering Development Center in Battambang Province and in a farmer’s rice field at Kandal Province. 

The resurgence of laser-leveling comes as the country attempts to ease labor shortage through the use of agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters. 

The ADB-IRRI Postharvest Project supported the field demonstrations by imparting techniques and providing laser kits. The DAEng contributed a bucket and an 82-HP tractor that has been used for laser leveling in target areas since 2011. 

Laser leveling activities have been continuously implemented by DAEng with support from the Agricultural Value Chain Program or CAVAC, Australian Programme, and the Kampot Provincial Department of Agriculture at Sdach Kong Khang Cheung Commune, Banteay Meas District, Kampot Province. Thirty hectares of farmers’ rice fields were laser-leveled from end of April 2012 to mid-June 2012. 

Beneficiaries and stakeholders have seen the merits of the technology enough to adopt it. During the field day on laser leveling at the pilot project in Kampot Province on 9th September 2012, 
It also attracted the interest of Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, who recommended putting laser leveling into the national programme.

Laser land-leveling was introduced in Cambodia by IRRI in 1997, with about 200 rice fields around the Tonle Sap Great Lake leveled using it. Joe Rickman, IRRI scientist, and experts from the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institution (CARDI) and DAEng introduced laser leveling then to Cambodian farmers through training activities and field demonstrations. The operation, however, was halted after the project ended, largely because the technology was not widely known in Cambodia at the time and adaptation was low.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Indonesia: Seminar on rice postharvest technologies and fan testing held in South Sumatra

The Post-Production Work Group of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium held a two-day seminar-orientation on rice postharvest technologies, in collaboration with the Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian (BPTP) in Palembang, South Sumatra. 

Thirty farmer leaders, manufacturers, and local government officials attended the event. The attendees were introduced to the stripper harvester technology that will compliment more than 300 flatbed dryers adapted in the area. A video on the stripper harvester was shown, in which the relevance of the technology to flatbed dryers were presented as well as the scarcity of manual labor in the area. 

Farmers raised some of the problems encountered with the flatbed dryer during the seminar, including low drying air temperature and long drying time. 

Pat Borlagdan of IRRI discussed the requirements for a good flatbed dryer and briefed the farmers on fan-testing and how it can ensure the proper functioning of flatbed dryers. A demonstration on the use of an actual fan test rig assembly was held. 

Professors from Sriwijaya University also spoke on the process of technology adaption and the critical role of manufacturers. 

The IRRC-PPWG is managed by Martin Gummert, IRRI postharvest specialist.

The event was was graced by Andy Mulyana, director of the Suboptimal Land Research Center in Sriwijaya University; Rudy Soehendi, director of BPTP Palembang; and Benjamin Lakitan, deputy director for research at Jakarta Central Office.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Philippines: Postharvest Learning Alliance helps farmer groups develop business plans

by Alfred Schmidley

The Sto. Niño Multipurpose Cooperative (SPMC) and the Taguibo Farmers’ Irrigators Association hosted working meetings in Agusan to develop business plans for postharvest enterprise activities, with support from the Postharvest Learning Alliance and Caraga State University.

 The goal of the meetings was to enable farmer groups to develop their own business plans for piloting or expanding their postharvest activities as entrepreneurial enterprise models. Two particular areas identified, for which business plans are being developed by the farmer groups, were mechanical drying of farmers’ paddy and use of rice by-products.

 Gertrudes Fortun, agriculturist from Butuan City, expressed hope that the farmer groups will use the business plan tool to attract resources for adoption of improved postharvest technologies, such as mechanical dryers.

 Plenio Atega, SMPC president, explained that, during the wet season, harvested paddy "often remain covered too long on sun-drying platforms during extended rainfall, sometimes even germinating before we can dry it for milling." The result is very low-quality paddy and milled rice, and farmers like him lose a lot of money as a result.

 At the Taguibo Irrigators Association, President Romy Lasco had a similar concern. “Our farmers can lose at least 30% of the crop due to lack of drying facilities during the wet season. Traders then discount the equivalent of 5 kilograms off the price out of every 50 kilograms due to low paddy quality, and farmers lose another 10%.”

 Professor Raquel Balanay, an economist from Caraga State University, and Alfred Schmidley, business model specialist for IRRI, advised the farmers’ groups on the use of a business plan.

 “During the meetings, we examined the business case for offering mechanical drying services to farmers but discovered many other interesting enterprise activities that these farmers are engaged in," shares Dr. Balanay. "For example, both farmers groups recently began vermiculture and organic fertilizer enterprises that usepostharvest by-products such as rice hull, rice stalks, and coconut husk fiber. They mix these with livestock manure to form high-nutrient compost, a product that helps farmers decrease input cost while allowing their organizations to sustain themselves by selling higher-margin value-added products. The Taguibo group is now looking at setting up a small shop in Butuan for selling vermiculture products, compost, and farmer-produced organic food items."

 “Farmers, when properly enabled, can be very resourceful and innovative,” Mr. Schmidley observed. “The business plan tool can help them analyze the business case for new technologies, expand profitable enterprise activities, or attract additional resources and capital.”

 The next step for the Postharvest Learning Alliance is to host a multi-stakeholder meeting in November where farmer groups, microfinance institutions, rural credit cooperatives, and other groups can learn more about postharvest enterprise opportunities.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cambodia: Postharvest Learning Alliance sponsors forum on microfinance

by Alfred Schmidley

The multistakeholder Cambodia Postharvest Learning Alliance sponsored a business forum, Emerging opportunities for microfinance in the postharvest rice sector, held on 14 September 2012 at the Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh.

Thirty-one participants came, representing 9 microfinance institutions (MFIs), Asian Development Bank; Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program; IDE; HARVEST; provincial departments of agriculture; Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF); Departments of Agricultural Extension and Agricultural Machinery; private sector rice processors; IRRI; and the local project team.

The event was opened by Meas Pyseth, coordinator, IRRI Postharvest Project; Bun Mony, CEO of SATHAPANA, one of Cambodia's leading MFIs; and Alfred Schmidley, IRRI business model specialist.

Dr. Pyseth, in his welcome remarks, highlighted project achievements and technologies now available to farmers and other chain actors that reduce physical losses, improve quality, and allow value-adding throughout the chain. These technologies include combine harvesters, mechanical dryers, and hermetic storage options that have been tested and studied in a business model context for sustainability and improving incomes of farmer and other rural actors.

“The next step for the Project is to link actor-specific business plans with MFIs by improving financial literary and creating awareness about loan products and postharvest sector opportunities,” IRRI's Dr. Schmidley stated. “By identifying needs for technical support and disseminating knowledge about improved technologies and postharvest management options, the Learning Alliance can help reduce risks to actors and loan providers in newly emerging enterprises.  However, to achieve this we need to improve financial literacy of actors and create awareness among MFIs about emerging opportunities.”

“To achieve better outcomes, we need human resources and financial capital, but it’s also important to find better ways to deploy resources more effectively by joining together with other actors,”  Dr. Mony added. “There are 33 MFIs licensed by Cambodia’s National Bank that have more than 800 branches countrywide. While 40% of Cambodian households have used microfinance in the past, we need to offer suitable loan products that serve new needs while keeping in mind the commercial context of enterprises.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cambodia: Business forum for postharvest rice sector conducted

by Reianne Quilloy and Trina Mendoza

Kampot Province, Cambodia — A business forum on loan products and banking services for the postharvest rice sector was conducted on 16-17 June 2012. Thirty-seven participants from micro- financing institutions (MFI), key farmers, cooperative heads, private sector rice processors, and IRRI project staff graced this event.

 The forum aimed to 1) increase awareness of the learning alliance partners on loan products and services offered by MFIs to support adoption of improved postharvest technologies and entrepreneurial business models; 2) facilitate learning and exchanges of information amongst farmer entrepreneurs, rural service providers, rice processors, technology suppliers, policy-makers, government agencies, and financial representatives regarding industry opportunities and needs; and 3) discuss ideas and possible next steps for developing actor-specific business plans and links to loan products, banking services, and information from MFIs.

 IRRI-ADB Postharvest project experts Alfred Schmidley and Pyseth Meas provided a walk-through of the project, while stressing the importance of scaling out improved postharvest technologies in the business model context by bringing financial institutes closer to the farmers, millers, traders, and service providers. Representatives of the three MFIs also presented information on their respective loan products and services. Group discussions were held as well to answer more queries from the participants.
 A more intensive forum will be conducted in mid-August either at Kampong Thom or Prey Veng. In the next series of seminars, top management of MFIs will be invited to be collaborators to help borrowers understand and use a business plan, and identify technical training support needs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Super Bags to thwart rice wastage now available to Filipino farmers

An airtight, reusable plastic bag that protects stored rice from moisture, pests, and rats, and keeps rice seeds viable, is now available to Filipino farmers in selected retails stores.
IRRI Super Bags reduce losses incurred after harvest that usually stem from poor storage conditions – helping prevent physical postharvest losses that can be around 15%. On top of these losses, farmers also experience loss in quality.
Farmers' investment is protected by keeping stored rice grains viable, and kept away from destructive pests and other causes of physical losses like moisture.

Developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)’s postharvest experts in collaboration with GrainPro Inc., the IRRI Super Bag is meant for small-scale rice farmers to protect the viability and quality of rice stored in their homes.
The IRRI Super Bag is manufactured by GrainPro Inc. and is marketed as SuperGrainbag™. IRRI, through its national partnerships, has verified the benefits of the IRRI Super Bag with tens of thousands of farmers throughout Asia, but acknowledges it is a challenge to bring the bags to millions of farmers in a commercial way.

Philippine farmer Manuel Luzentales Jr. has always wondered how to deal with rats and weevils gnawing their way into his paddy (unmilled rice) stored in ordinary sacks in his house.
After attending a seminar in a nearby town introducing the IRRI Super Bags to farmers in the Philippine Bicol region, he decided to test them.
Mr. Manuel Luzentales shares his Superbag story

"Before, a 7-month storage caused my rice grains to break from moisture and pest infestations," Luzentales recalls. "I tested the IRRI Super Bags on my harvest for the second planting season of 2010. After keeping my harvest in the IRRI Super Bags for 10 months, the seeds were 100% viable, and none were wasted."
Engr. Martin Gummert, head of the IRRI postharvest unit, said that the rolling out of economically viable rice postharvest technologies in the Philippines and Southeast Asia involves partners in the public and private sectors. “The IRRI Super Bag is one of the technologies in the front line of this effort,” he explains.
For this purpose, IRRI has initiated and is facilitating national Postharvest Learning Alliances that embrace public and private stakeholders who have an interest in and mandate to establish local supply chains for technologies. Through this Postharvest Learning Alliance, IRRI is assisting in setting up and training local distributors for technologies such as the IRRI Super Bag.

Farmers' investment is protected by keeping stored rice grains viable, and kept away from destructive pests and other causes of physical losses like moisture.
Farmers' investment is protected by keeping stored rice grains viable, and kept away from destructive pests and other causes of physical losses like moisture.

“The rollout of the IRRI Super Bag would have been difficult without the help of the Philippines Postharvest Learning Alliance,” explains Engr. Gummert. “These alliances allow cross-sector actors to share information, foster learning, and better address a range of technical and market support needs.”
IRRI has established national Postharvest Learning Alliances in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The IRRI Super Bag works by blocking the flow of both oxygen and water vapor from the outside to the grain. When the bag is properly sealed, farmers can safely store their seeds for 9–12 months without reducing germination rates. IRRI Super Bags also keep away insects and rats without using chemicals and improve the percentage of whole rice grains recovered after milling by around 10%.

Tom de Bruin, GrainPro’s president and CEO, said that a national retail network with close to 200 outlets will be involved to enable availability of the bags to farmers. “The SuperGrainbag™ is already selling widely used in three continents and is used for storage in an array of other commodities.”

In the Philippines, the key partners are Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)and other Postharvest Learning Alliance members,Catholic Relief Services with its local NGO partners, and the Department of Agriculture’s regional offices in Agusan, Bicol, and Bohol provinces. Other members are local government units in the three provinces, farmer cooperatives, and other NGO partners.

This work is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)-funded Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).

The Super Bags can be bought in Pacifica Agrivet branches nationwide.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Philippines: IRRI and partners install community dryer in Bukidnon

Up in the mountain ranges of Impasugong, Bukidnon, rice farming is a challenge. Farmers deal with rainy weather all throughout the year, making grain drying a difficult task. To ease their problem, nongovernment organizations Kaanib Foundation, Inc. and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) worked with the Asian Development Bank-funded IRRI Postharvest Project and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and helped install a reversible airflow flatbed dryer for the community. 

On 20 June 2012, a turnover ceremony was held in Kalabugao Village and was attended by local government representatives, CRS program manager Terry Tuason, and marketing project coordinator, Lionel Mendoza, PhilRice engineer Dexter Ona, Kaanib Foundation director Imelda Esteban, and IRRI communication specialist Trina Mendoza.

The construction of the facility was completed in May and is now ready for use in time for the June-July rice harvest season in the uplands of Bukidnon. Engineer Ona demonstrated the operation of the dryer, and trained some members of the community on the operation and maintenance of the dryer. 

“With the installation of the dryer, the quality of their rice will increase, and they can therefore ask for a higher price in the market,” says Anthony Hendrix, municipal agro-enterprise facilitator of Kaanib. 

IRRI funded the manufacturing cost of the dryer blower and assisted CRS and their local NGO partner in establishing a new business model using a business plan for the dryer. This assistance was provided by the ADB-funded IRRI Postharvest Project that brings multistakeholder partners for introducing improved technologies and business models for reduced postharvest losses and increased farmers’ income.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

IRRI moisture tester commercialized

After discussions with several electronics manufacturers in the Philippines, Cambodia, and India, IRRI finally found an industry partner to commercialize the low-cost IRRI moisture tester.

 Many inquiries and orders for the previous version showed that the moisture tester has huge potential to finally provide affordable means to measure moisture content in village postharvest operations. Farmers will benefit from making more informed decisions regarding safe storage. By being able to quantify the moisture content, they will be in better negotiating positions when they sell their paddy to traders.

 Compared to previous versions, which were made by two small cottage industry-type workshops in Los Baños, Philippines, the new unit is equipped with improved electronics and manufactured using state-of-the-art processes byNanodevice Technologies, Inc., an electronics manufacturer in Manila. Manufacture quality is therefore greatly improved. The company also applies quality control procedures and provides a warranty, which was not the case with the older units.

 The moisture tester is kept as simple as possible to keep cost down and, hence, does not have a digital display. Three small lights indicate whether the paddy needs to be dried (above 14% moisture content), is safe for storage for milling purposes (12-14% moisture content), or is safe for seed storage (less than 12% moisture content). Within a range of 10-16%, the moisture content can be determined within a 1% range by observing the pattern of the lights. Accuracy within this range is comparable to that of a digital resistance-based moisture meter that typically costs USD 200-400.

 It is always a big challenge to take the next step from having viable research results towards a commercially viable product because of the initial investment needed for adaptive R&D needed for mass production. With the moisture tester, IRRI faced a chicken and egg problem: manufacturers of electronic equipment shy away from these investments if they do not have proof of an available market. To develop the market, on the other hand, one needs a certain amount of initial units to demonstrate its potential.

 By pooling resources from the IRRI Postharvest Project (funded by the Asian Development Bank), Irrigated Rice Research Consortium's PostproductionWorkgroup (funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), and other sources, IRRI was able to place an initial order of 350 units. This enticed Nanodevice to do the adaptive R&D to replace expensive circuits imported from developed countries by cheaper components from China and redesign the electronics for a more automated production.
 Due to the small volume of the initial order and the development cost, the price tag is still relatively high. The 350 units will be used strategically to further develop the market for a bigger-sized order. Some units will be sold at the IRRI Riceworld Bookstore at a subsidized price of $55, maintaining the price of the previous version. According to some initial quotations for further orders, however, the price will go down to around $35 once orders reach 10,000 units. Further streamlining and improvements (e.g., investing in a mold for a custom housing) could lead to an even lower price.

 Individual units for demonstration and evaluation purposes can be purchased at the IRRI Riceworld Bookstore. For bulk orders, please contact Nanodevice Technologies, Inc. (Unit 104 Oxford, #20 Evangelista St., Santolan, Pasig City, telephone numbers +63 2 477 1379 or telefax +63 2 470 6485.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Philippines: Business case writeshop takes off in Butuan City

A Business Case Writeshop for Learning Alliance Partners was conducted last March 27-28, 2012 at Butuan city, Agusan del Norte, Philippines. The event was attended by partners from various villages of Bututan City who participated in the hermetic storage trial.

The group was able to write one business case from the a completed, six-month trial of Ms. Marilyn Aranas, the Chairperson of Sto. Niño Multi Purpose Cooperative.

To view the report and highlights of the event, you may access the report here.