Crop pests are an unrelenting concern for Philippine farmers, who may see as much as 50 percent of their harvest lost to bugs.
But an enterprising young entrepreneur from the University of the Philippines - Los Baños has found a way to weed out pests from rice and corn as easily as turning a handle.
Josine Macaspac, an 27-year old entomologist, proposes a mechanical pests remover she named Mechanical Postharvest Pest Removal System (MPReS), which she claims is more practical than currently-employed methods.
The industry standard of controlling postharvest and storage pests use a two-pronged method: cooling with dry ice to reduce pest activity and fumigation to kill the pests.
However, Macaspac said this method is too expensive for farmers who have neither the financial resources nor the access to the needed materials.
Macaspac proposes shifting to a pest management that is sustainable yet very effective and safe for the environment. MPReS, she says, would really work well in rural areas where storage facilities do not have adequate protection.
How the device works is simple: it “tumbles” the produce, shaking off pests that then fall through a sieve on the contraption's floor. Thus, pests are sifted out and the cleaned produce can be safely removed from the device.
MPReS can be used not just on rice and corn, but also on a variety of grains including wheat and millet.
This device can process up to 50 kilos of produce at a time. One spin would only take up an estimated time of 5-8 minutes. Once done, a lever can be pushed up to tilt the compartment to slide the cleaned produce into another waiting sack - ready for storage and for market.
“With the help of this device, a farmer can effectively clean 600 kilos of rice or 12 sacks of produce in a single hour without the use of electricity or expensive fuel,” Macaspac said.
Her motivation for her proposal stems from her desire to provide small-time farmers a sustainable and practical way of pest control.
“The device must be affordable for farmers, easy to clean and operate, and durable so that it can be used for years,” she said
As of now, MPReS is still in the planning stages. Macaspac is planning to release a sketch of the device after she is able to produce and release it first in the market.
MPReS is her entry to the Young Agriprenuer Program, a global contest for young agricultural entrepreneurs. The contest is facilitated by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research. Winners will receive a $5,000 USD grant to pursue their proposals. — TJD, GMA News