BU develops modern nut cracker to boost Bicol’s pili industry
By Danny O. Calleja
The need for appropriate equipment in processing pili nut prompted the Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF) here to develop a modern mechanical tool that makes cracking of pili nut faster, efficient and more economical.
As pili nut is indigenous only in the Philippines, the government has long since recognized its economic importance in the country as an export crop that ranks second to cashew nuts and has been a good stand-in for macadamia nuts. Pili is produced and processed mostly in the Bicol region.
As the demand for pili products continues to grow, the supply is hardly met. One main problem of the industry is in post-production operation and processing. Most of the workers still resort to traditional de-shelling using bolo.
This difficulty in processing pili nuts has been forcing the farmers to sell their pili at very low prices to traders making them get most of the benefit.
Engr. Arnulfo Malinis, head of the BUCAF team that developed the nut cracker, said that with its use, the farmers are assured of an additional income of 1.50 per kilo of pili nut.
With this technology, the adoption of a village level pili-processing system is now being slowly established. Farmers are trained to use the machine and other equipment for postharvest processing, thus enabling them to develop their own micro-enterprise to sell pili products at prices they set, Malinis said.
Farmers are able to sell pili not as fruit but as kernel at a higher price. Also, the mechanization of the de-shelling process will create job opportunities for the unemployed women in the region, he said.
The prototype of the equipment is composed of a six-blade cracker powered by a one-horsepower electric motor with an energy consumption of 0.41 kilowatt per hour. The machine consists of five major parts: the cracking unit, conveying unit, stand/frame, transmission, and prime mover.
The prototype was tested with the help of local cooperators from the municipalities of Casiguran and Irosin in Sorsogon, and Guinobatan, Albay using three major parameters: cracking capacity, the cracking efficiency and economic viability.
Technology verification of the prototype showed that on the average, it can crack 204 pieces of pili nut in a minute or 117 kilograms per hour with a cracking efficiency averaging 93 percent with 89 percent whole kernel recovery, Malinis said.
It is a one-man operated machine that could crack bags of dried pili nuts faster than the other developed nut cracker. For eight hours a day, this simple machine could crack 16 bags of dried nuts. The result is comparative to the output of four persons in one day.
The mechanical pili nut cracker also proved to be economically viable. To produce the machine an outlay amounting to P 40,000 is needed.
The return of investment is guaranteed at 53 percent after more than a year of use, he added.
The equipment was developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (DA-BPRE), Tropics Agro-Industries (KOLBI) and DA-Regional Field Unit (RFU) 5.
The first prototype pili nut cracker was developed in 1995 by the Agricultural Engineering Department of the Camarines Sur State College (CSSAC) in Pili town. It used steel rollers to crack the pili shells. Unfortunately, the shells were cracked in irregular manner, thus eventually damaging the kernel, according to DA regional executive director Jose Dayao.
The Catanduanes State College Laboratory High School (CSCLHS) also developed a four-part pili nut cutter made from indigenous materials.
The four-part cutter consisted of a framework, case, hammer, and blade.
Result showed great improvement in the efficiency of de-shelling. It was 80 percent more time efficient than the manual method. However, the developed cracker was still insufficient to deliver the acceptable capacity.
There were several pili nut crackers fabricated after the first cracker from the steel rollers-operated machine to the mechanically-operated pili nut cracker. But there were still problems in terms of efficiency or capacity, either the shells are unevenly cut, thus damaging the kernel or the cracking capacity is low, Dayao said.
Other problems included the feeding and conveying of pili nuts into the machine and the limited number of skilled workers to crack pili, he added. (PNA)
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