New SMART tractor to help lessen cost of rice production
TABONTABON, Leyte – A recent World Bank report about high costs of labor and low rates of mechanization contributing to high palay production cost in the Philippines has prompted a school in an agricultural town in Leyte to come up with an invention of a tractor that would seem to help solve the problem.
According to the report, it costs US$96 per ton to produce one ton of palay in the Philippines compared to US$59 per ton in Thailand, US$74 per ton in Vietnam and US$69 per ton in Indonesia. It noted that the high rate of manual labor, the low rate of mechanization and higher rice prices in the Philippines make the wage component of Philippine rice production more expensive.
Dr. Rustico Balderian, an optometrist, a businessman and the president and founder of the Colegio de Sta. Lourdes of Leyte Foundation Inc. (CSLLFI) based in Tabontabon town, said they are making a tractor that is safe, multi-purpose, adaptable and with a rideable technology, which he calls as SMART tractor.
“Actually, this (tractor) is a project of the school,” Balderian said.
The CSLLFI started as a nursing school and has already produced graduates. Its passing rate is more than 85 percent.
What is unique about the school is that all the students are scholars, mostly sons and daughters of poor farmers who are very interested to pursue college education. The condition was for them to maintain a grade of 2 with no grade below 2.5 in a semester. Once they graduate and find work abroad, however, they must send $1,000 a month to their parents for three consecutive years.
Then, the school opened an entrepreneurial course for those interested to run their own businesses. An applicant for scholarship in enterpreneurship is asked to present their proposed business and defend it before a committee. Once approved, the school would finance the project, with the student as industrial partner. The condition was that they would not seek employement but put up their own businesses in town.
Balderian disclosed that after their SMART tractor project, they would focus to their hydroponics project.
According to Balderian, the SMART tractor is better than hand tractors being used in some farms because instead of having to trod on the paddies, the farmers could ride on the newly-invented tractor. “Schistomiasis is endemic in Leyte and farmers are in danger of being inflicted with the disease,” he said.
He said the new tractor would protect the farmer from being inflicted with schisostomiasis or liptospirosis. He added that the farmers would also be protected from the heat of the sun or from sudden rain because the SMART tractor has a roof.
Balderian said this new tractor is easy to operate that even the wives of farmers could prepare the rice fields for planting with the use of a SMART tractor. Actually, the tractor just “floats” on the rice paddies, he added.
“With this tractor, labor and production costs would be lowered. This means bigger income for our farmers,” he said.
He added the SMART tractor is also multi-purpose. It could be converted either into a transplanter, combined harvester, a road maintenance equipment because a trailer and a dozer could be attached to the tractor, or even as an ambulance.
Balderian explained that in rural areas like their town, the usual means of transportation is the “habal-habal” or single motorcycle. He added that in case of emergencies, like when the patient suffered a stroke or mother on the verge of delivering her child, riding a ‘habal-habal” is not appropriate because the patients have to sit, not to lie down.
Balderian said the SMART tractor could be converted into an ambulance by attaching a stretcher into the vehicle.
And in case the farm-to-market road needs repair, a village doesn’t have to wait for the muncipal or provincial engineer to come for they could do road repair works with the used of the SMART tractor. “Attaching a blade in front of the tractor and a trailer behind, they can haul road materials and level the road,” he said.
Balderian said he is now in the process of filing a patent for the SMART tractor at the regional office of the Intelelctual Property Rights. “I’m sure that our application would be approved because I have never seen a tractor similar as this,” he said.
According to Balderian, the SMART tractor has a 18 horsepower engine, but this could be upgraded to 24 or 36 horsepower, depending on the desire of the buyer.
He said that the basic cost of the SMART tractor is about P250,000 but the buyer can request for attachments. “So, this would cost the buyer more,”he said.
Asked why he is spearheading the invention of the SMART tractor, he said he just would lke to help the community, especially the farmer.
Balderian is a self-made man, and now he would like to share his blessings to the community. In 1971 when he was 15 years old, he left Tabontabon for Manila, where he became a working student because his parents could support his studies. He worked as a factory worker, a cigarette and “balut” vendor and by being a driver.
He completed his Doctor of Optometry from the Manila Central University. In 1981 he finished his Doctor of Medicine, alsofrom MCU. A year later, he finished he finished his post-graduate internship from a medical center in Cabanatuan City.
Then in 1983, he went to the US, where he worked as a truck driver, store cashier, store manager and assistant physician. In 1985, he was able to setup his own business in Los Angeles – a medical laboratory. With his wife, a medical technologist, he also opened a pharmacy in 1993 and a mobile x-ray company in 1996. Then in 2000, they opened the Ryan
Here in the Philippines, Balderian set up a diagnostic center in Tacloban City in 1990, the Ryan Anthony Hospital in Cainta, Rizal in 1995.
With his desire to serve his town, he ran and won is mayor of Tabontabon in 2007. Last year, hoping to serve his district, he ran but lost in the congressional race.
At present, Balderian is managing the school had founded in Tabontabon. (VEN LABRO)
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