By YVETTE TAN
Every two years, something big happens in the city of Cheonan in South Korea. This is KIEMSTA 2018, the Korea International Exhibition for Machinery Equipment, Science and Technology for Agriculture, staged by the Korea Agricultural Machinery Industry Cooperative (KAMICO) headed by chairman Shin Gil Kim.
The agri machinery fair is one of five major events around the world, and is set in a sprawling tent complex inside Cheonan Samgeori Park, a cultural space and tourist attraction. Vendors from all over the globe flock to showcase their wares. Some of the most striking ones, however, were Korean homegrown.
On display were tractors of all types, from hand tractors to driverless ones to tractor simulators for agricultural schools. There were climate-controlled hydroponic setups and drones that sprayed pesticide, as well as other machines that seemed to come out of a futuristic movie.
And in all of those high-tech farm implements, there were machines built to suit for the small farms, too.
There were automatic seeders and transplanters that can enable one person to do the work of ten. There were rice mills compact enough for one family to use, or a small coop to own, and a corn miller that lets you choose the size of grits. These machines are common in Korea, but have yet to become popular in the Philippines.
“Farm mechanization is important because manual farming can be inefficient,” said Philip Kim, KAMICO representative and CEO of FIT Corea. “Have you tried to plant? Even after just 10 minutes, it’s really painful for your waist. So instead of that, we need only two people to ride the transplanter. You can do three to four hectares a day.”
He added that since there are less people going into agriculture, farm machinery will not only lessen the need for labor, it might also attract a younger demographic. “We have to attract young people to drive tractors and they will find that it’s an easy way to work the farm,” he added.
Aside from a tour at the expo, the Philippine contingent visited three agricultural machinery manufacturers: Kukje Machinery, maker of Branson Tractors; Asia Technology Co., Ltd., whose mini cultivator is the best selling machine of its kind in the world; and Lee-Hwa Industry Co., maker of rice and corn milling machines and who proudly employs 10 Filipinos in its factory.
“Most manufacturers use premium metal, so the quality and durability is really over the standard,” Kim said, adding that unlike many manufacturers, all KAMICO accredited companies make their machines in Korea. Their engines are all Tier three, which means they are eco-friendly. “These machines with interchangeable implements will offer Filipino farmers a lot of choices,” he added.
In the Philippines, KAMICO is represented by FIT Corea, which Kim heads. “We do not just sell machines, we also educate users and offer training and maintenance,” he said. “We are working with PHilMech as technical support.”
The company also offers discounts to Overseas Filipino Workers upon presentation of their OFW ID card. “We consider OFWs the heroes of the Philippines,” Kim explained. “They’re looking for ways to invest… If they have a rice mill, how much can they earn in a month? P50,000.”
One of the machines that might be most of use right now in the Philippine setting is the direct seeding machine, which can plant four to five hectares a day. Direct seeding (has been encouraged) by PhilRice for five years already. The other is the mini cultivator mentioned above, which is perfect for small farms, especially those that specialize in high value crops. The market for orchard machines is being explored as well.
Kim believes there is still much to explore in terms of potential in Philippine agriculture. “Our slogan is ‘farmers are our future,’” he said. “Because if they grow, they become rich, they become stable, and then the Philippines is stable.”