University of the Philippines Los Baños

Zubia’s father went to his workplace for him to change how he looked at agricultural machinery and to work towards making change happen.

“I showed my father, a farmer, around my workplace where we develop farm machines. Upon closer inspection of the machines on display, he shook his head and said that they were not fit for Filipinos,” Zubia recalled.

It struck Zubia, a faculty member at the Institute of Agricultural Engineering of the College of Engineering and Agro- Industrial Technology (CEAT-IAE), that his father’s observations might just be valid. The Philippines may have benefited much from imported machinery: however, these were likely to have caused problems and affected efficiency because they have not been designed based on the Filipino’s body dimensions.

Zubia said that there is inefficiency in time that is lost when the smaller-built Filipino strains to reach buttons, switches, and handles when operating a machine designed for his taller, longer-limbed, and bigger-framed counterpart. And since Filipino users need to exert extra effort while operating these machines, they strain their muscles, which eventually result in body aches and sore muscles. This is a workrelated hazard that has gone on for years, but which remains unreported.

Agrimachines built for and by Filipinos

This realization motivated Zubia to pioneer an anthropometric study in 2007 of male farmers in Laguna as part of his MS thesis. Anthropometry is the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body including the mechanical aspect of the motions of the body. The rationale is that a well-designed machine should be fitted to the users’ size, reach, and strength and should neither impose danger nor give discomfort to the user during the operation.

In 2009, Zubia, together with Dr. Rosanna Marie C. Amongo, started the project entitled “Anthropometric Survey of Farmers in the CALABARZON Area” funded by the Agricultural Mechanization Development Program of the IAE. The project identifies 38 body measurements that are important considerations in designing agricultural mechanization technologies for Filipino farmers.

They include the gender perspective in their studies with both anthropometric data for male and female farmers.

In 2012, Dr. Amongo and Engineer Mark Keylord S. Onal, project leader and study leader, respectively, took over the project and started to venture into comfortable working envelopes for male and female farmers. To date, there are about 836 anthropometric data (429 males and 407 females) collected and readily available in a database for engineers, designers, and researchers’ reference.

The study has also included the types of machines and the product for which they are used. For example, Cavite produces coffee, while Laguna produces rice and corn.

It also considered the farmers’ acceptability of the project. Some farmers resisted having their measurements taken and the possible modification of the machines, while others reacted positively to the possibility of improving the machines.

Although the study is presently limited to the CALABARZON area, the team looks forward to continuing the studies from the static phase into the dynamic phase or the actual testing of the modified machines. It also aims to broaden the scope at the national level although the data collected is already sufficient for the validity of the study. The study also suggests usability testing to ensure performance and determining the acceptability of the machines being designed or modified using the anthropometric data collected.

Encouraging thrust in agriculture

The thrust of the Department of Agriculture (DA) towards national farm mechanization since 2011 is an encouraging sign for CEAT researchers. DA has been undertaking MakinaSaka, a nationwide agri-machinery roadshow, aimed at modernizing production, harvest, storage, and processing operations of major Filipino food staples such as rice, corn, vegetables, fisheries, and livestock.

According to Director Rex Bingabing of DA’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization MakinaSaka encourages famers’ groups and local government units to make production and processing operations faster and more efficient.

DA has also been giving full support to farm machinery makers and distributors. Agriculture secretary Proceso J. Alcala was quoted to have said “farm mechanization is an imperative to increase the productivity and incomes of farmers, fisher folks, and other key players in the food supply chain.” Secretary Alcala aims to raise the country’s farm mechanization level in the next three years to keep up with our Asian counterparts.

He also supports and has enjoined agricultural machinery manufacturers and fabricators in the country to continuously innovate so as to come up with farm machinery, equipment, and accessories that best suit the needs of Filipino farmers. This vision, also shared by CEAT’s anthropometric study, will improve the cost-efficiency and quality of Philippine agricultural products that would enable our farmers to compete in the international market.

With notes from the interview of Dr. Rosanna Marie C. Amongo, Prof. Mark Keylord S. Onal, and Prof. Omar F. Zubia; reports from CEAT’s IAE-AMDP Accomplishment Report from January to June 30, 2013; Anthropometry of Male Farmers in Laguna, Philippines and its Potential Applications in the Design of Agricultural Machines and Tools published in the Philippine Journal of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Volume III Issue 1; and article “DA gives full support for farm machinery makers, distributors” published in The Philippine Star, dated November 11, 2013.