Did you know that Philmech’s new Executive Director Dr. Dionisio Alvindia is a mechanized rice farmer?

By Zac Sarian

Not many people know that Dr. Dionisio G. Alvindia, the new Executive Director of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), is a mechanized rice farmer.

He and his wife operate a 30-hectare rice farm in Quezon, Nueva Ecija, whose operations are mechanized, from land preparation and transplanting up to postharvesting.

Dr. Alvindia says that mechanization can really cut the cost of producing rice. As per his personal experience, he can save as much as PhP 6,500 on transplanting costs per hectare with the use of a transplanting machine.

Unknown to many, including those from the Department of Agriculture, he is the first—or one of the first—to adopt the use of a mechanical transplanter. Being the scientist that he is, he acquired a transplanter by rehabilitating a second-hand tractor he bought for R120,000. He also fabricated metal trays for growing his seedlings.

How was he able to save R6,500 by mechanizing his transplanting? When seedlings are transplanted manually, it takes 20 people to do the job on one hectare in one day. On the other hand, it takes only three workers to transplant by machine on the same area in the same amount of time using his improvised 4-row transplanter.

The daily wage of the 20 manual transplanters, including snacks and lunch, amounts to a total of R7,000. Add to that R1,000 as the cost of growing the seedlings; R2,000 for pulling, and R500 for hauling the seedlings to the field. That amounts to a total of R10,500 in costs.

In the case of transplanting by machine, the workers are allotted R1,500, including their food. Add R1,500 for fuel and R1,000 for growing the seedlings. There is no cost for pulling and hauling because the seedlings are in metal trays which are brought to the field by the tractor. That’s a total of R4,000, which means a savings of R6,500.

With 30 hectares, Dr. Alvindia could save a total of R195,000 on transplanting per cropping. If he plants two times a year, that will amount to R390,000.

Dr. Alvindia admits that he encountered some problems in the beginning, but were eventually solved. The workers are now very efficient at doing their transplanting job.

Combine Harvester

Harvesting with a combine also results in big savings. According to Dr. Alvindia, the harvesters get a share of 7.5 cavans per 100 cavans harvested.

Then the cost of threshing is also 7.5 cavans per hundred cavans. That’s 15 cavans per 100 cavans. If the selling price of freshly threshed palay is R16 per kilo, one bag will be R800. Thus the 15 cavans are worth R12,000.

Let’s take the cost of combine harvesting. For every 100 cavans, the share of the combine harvester is 9 cavans worth R7,200. The palay is already threshed with one pass of the combine. So there’s a savings of R4,800 per 100 cavans harvested.

Dr. Alvindia normally harvests 170-180 cavans per hectare. That would be 5,100 to 5,400 cavans. And if the savings is R4,800 per hundred cavans, the savings will range from R244,800 to R259,200 from 30 hectares.

Dr. Alvindia got his bachelor’s degree in agriculture, majoring in pathology, from the Central Luzon State University in 1985. Immediately after graduation, he joined PhilMech as a research aide. He studied at the Tokyo University of Agriculture from 1997 to 2003 under a scholarship from Japan for his master’s and PhD degrees.

In 2006-2008, he went back to Japan for his post-doctoral studies. That’s when he started to do research on biological crop protection products.

He has now patented two biological fungicides. One of them was developed from fungus and bacteria from the Cavendish banana. It has been found to control banana diseases like Sigatoka and Fusarium wilt, crown rot in papaya, and anthracnose in mango.

The other biological fungicide was derived from organisms in banana and cacao. It is also good for controlling banana diseases, vascular disease of cacao, and pod rot. The two are under further field testing prior to release for commercial use.

Dr. Dionisio Alvindia, PhilMech executive director.

At Philmech

Meanwhile, at PhilMech, Dr. Alvindia will be kept busy developing the farm mechanization equipment needed by different agriculture sectors. He would like to develop improved stripping machines for abaca. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PhilMech and the Korea Agricultural Machinery Industry Cooperative (KAMICO) was recently signed. Under the MOU, the two parties will collaborate in promoting agricultural mechanization in the country through the establishment of a Farm Mechanization Center and in developing appropriate machinery for the Philippines.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2017 issue.