Move aside Carrot-Man, enter the Carrot Washer
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet— For decades, carrot farmers use puddles of water to clean their crops before they deliver these to the nearest market.
Many traders also spend tedious hours washing off mud from the crops which are put on display by 6 a.m. each day. That menial chore may soon end.
The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech) displayed its prototype of a vegetable washer this week at a highland vegetables forum at the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) here.
The prototype could wash up to three tons of carrots and other root crops in an hour. The crops are delivered to a rotating chamber by a conveyor belt where the vegetables are brushed and sluiced with warm water.
Rex Bingabing, Philmech executive director, said it takes 50 hours of manual labor for eight people to clean a ton of carrots. The machine could do this with only three operators using only half a liter of water to wash a kilogram of root crops.
The machine was originally developed for carrots, a high-value cash crop from Benguet and Mountain Province, until its designers realized it could clean most root crops, according to Rodolfo Estigoy, chief of Philmech’s research unit.
“We saw the problem at the carrot washing area [four years ago when Philmech visited a carrot trading facility]—the sanitation—and so the idea of developing a carrot washer arose,” Estigoy says.
He said the carrot washer would charge a minimal fee to farmers who transact business at the BAPTC. The first version of the machine was smaller and could scrub 300 kilograms of carrots per hour.
Upland farmers transport unwashed and unpolished crops from the gardens to the market, believing that the mud kept their produce fresh for retail or distribution. But Estigoy said washing the crops was necessary to remove bacteria and other potential contaminants before these are sold. “Washing is the first line of defense against transporting contaminants,” he says.
The carrot washer has a drying system so that the root crops will not rot while being transported. Estigoy says the carrot washer uses soft brushes to avoid damaging the crop’s skin.
“The first models we developed used harder bristles so the technicians and engineers teased each other that they were developing a carrot cutter machine,” he said.
Philmech built two carrot washer prototypes worth P1 million each. “Our patent application is now being processed, so we were able to launch the carrot washer,” Estigoy said.
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