Sunday, September 25, 2011


Another field that is emerging of which AEs can go to as a career specialization is the area on Agro-informatics. We shall be using the word "Agroinformatics" to distinguish the use of information technology in the field of agriculture and fisheries. This is relatively a new field and may compete with information and electronics professionals. However, our extensive knowledge of the agricultural systems makes us advantageous

Here are some agroinformatics tracks, an AE can follow:


The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a powerful tool used in natural resource management including agriculture and fisheries. A good number of GIS professionals in the Philippines have AE background. Our extensive knowledge in land and water management makes us versatile GIS professionals. Through GIS, one can visualize land degradation, water resources, land cover, soil fertility maps, pest spread, etc. It is a dynamic mapping approach that can help in decision making. In addition, GIS can be utilized as a tool in Precision Agriculture particularly if one AE would like to venture in plantation environment. 

Automation, Instrumentation and Control

A lot of our gadgets in the field needs to be automated as well. Through basic electronics, we can transform our rain gauges, hygrothermographs, etc. to gather real time data for a better weather forecasting and hydrological analysis. We can improve our sensors for microclimate control inside greenhouses, aquaculture systems, biosecured animal housing, etc. We can greatly improve our postharvest and production equipment. In this case, mechanization will be implemented in "lighter and intelligent approach".In this case, mechanization will be more of electronics-based and little of ICE-based.


Those who maybe interested in research. A software approach can also be implemented by AEs. We refer to hydrological modelling, climate modelling, crop modelling, etc. An AE have better stance than the mere computer science professional. As I have said, we understand the system better.

Reinforce curriculum

However, in order for our future professionals to be able to be proficient on this areas, we need to review our curriculum. We shall not look at CAD and GIS as a stand alone program but rather let us start integrating these in the every professional subjects as much as possible. We also have the edge if we start using microcontrollers and robotics in the design of postharvest and machineries. With a fast changing IT industry, these technologies will be more cost-efficient in the near future and hopefully more affordable for our farmers.

And we need to be ready before computer and electronics professionals will snatch this away from us.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

World class pinoy AEs

We are compiling herein several Pinoy agricultural engineers who have made a mark on their respective academic careers. Of course, there are other countless pinoy AEs working in other fields, but in the meantime we are presenting herein some academics who make it in the world stage.

ALEXIS T. BELONIO - is a professor at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City. He made headlines when he was awarded as one of the laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

But even with his invention, he did not intend to make money from his patent and made the design public for others to use.

Read more about Engr. Alexis T. Belonio.

DR. ROBERTO S. CLEMENTE - is a professor at the Asian Institute of Technology at Thailand.

He has an extensive work in irrigation and drainage and land and water management with research activities throughout Asia.

Read more about Engr. Roberto Clemente

DR. LOPE TABIL - is a professor of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

The areas of research in which he works and maintains interest include bioprocess engineering, value-added engineering and postharvest handling of crops.

Read more about Engr. Lope Tabil 

DR. RONALDO G. MAGHIRANG - is a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the Kansas State University in the United States.

Prof. Maghirang is a leading figure in education and research on agricultural air quality. His expertise include structures and environment, bioaerosols among others.

Read more about Engr. Ronaldo G. Maghirang

DR. BERNARDO Z. PREDICALA - is an adjunct professor at the Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada while working as a Research Scientist at the Prairie Swine Centre Inc.

Read more about Engr. Predicala

DR. SERGIO CAPAREDA - is an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the Texas A&M University in the United States. His research include: Fluidized bed pyrolysis and gasification of biomass; biofuels and biopower production including biomass characterization; GHG and RVOC emissions measurements; engine dynamometer testing; process design and development. Read more about Engr. Sergio Capareda.

DR. MANUEL REYES - is an associate professor of natural resources and environmental design at the North Carolina State A&T University in the United States.

His work mainly focused on hydrology, soil and water conservation engineering, and earth systems engineering.

Read more about Dr. Manuel Reyes

delos Reyes

DR. FRANCIS DELOS REYES III - is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the North Carolina State University in the United States.

He is among the pioneer academic working on the interface of microbial ecology and environmental engineering.

Read more about Dr. Francis delos Reyes III

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do it the biological way

By this time, you will have probably discerned my utter bias in developing our competencies in areas which we do not have much competition and I felt that we are strong. You may probably be aware my reservation in confronting other engineers in areas which I believe we have thematic overlap and my desire to work around this competition for own advantage.

Let me discuss the global evolution of agricultural engineering into a much wider biological systems engineering. For some, it is quite alarming. Does this mean we need to learn new approaches, tools, skills and competencies in order to cope with these new trends?

Sadly (for some), yes. But these new areas are where the paths of least resistance are. Instead of devoting our energy and effort in equipping ourselves in areas where we have competition, why don't we strengthen our ranks to "new areas"? Our current curriculum reflects these trends to a certain degree but sometimes are received by college professors in varying degrees of enthusiasm leading to half-baked lectures. The board exam also did not reflect these trends and are still locked in traditional agricultural engineering major subjects. So why professors spend time in lecturing these new trends when at the end of the day, it will not be included in the board exams? I mean there is a lot potential in learning these new areas particularly for work but since the ultimate measure of performance is the board exam, colleges shy away from these areas.

Here are few areas and opportunity scenarios that an agricultural engineer can do and got paid for it:

1) Bioenergy and biomass engineering- this is an area where we will harness the energy biological products. An AE can design small-scale portable biogas digester that really works! An agricultural engineer can also work with the Solid Waste Management (SWM) programs in the LGUs specializing in compost engineering (designing the right compost recipe).
2) Soil bioengineering - we have great potential in this area. Ever heard of the geotextile coco fibers for erosion control? Agricultural engineers are in the forefront of this but oftentimes are not included in the curriculum package in our soil and water conservation engineering. But this technology is emerging in the Philippines. If only we could popularized this as an AE practice.
3) Urban agriculture support - Here we talk about hydroponics and pot growing. But do we have this in a course? like designing turnkey systems for installations? Congressmen are aware of this. They even purchase fertilizers for urban areas. I must presume these are for urban agriculture projects. We can ask Jocjoc
4) Aquacultural engineering - aside from fishpond design, one can extend the urban agricultural system and turn it into aquaponics systems.
5) Microclimate control - we are the engineering profession who has knowledge in physiology and environmental requirements of both plants and animals. We can design or at least install turnkey systems for greenhouses, biosecured animal production systems.

These are some of the biosystems engineering areas that one AE can work on and can be an entrepreneur. Of course there are other areas (e.g. ecological engineering, biosensors, food processing, etc). which might still on the infancy stage in so far as Philippine arena is concerned.

The few examples I have outlined above can be a venue for income of an entrepreneurial AE. However, the motivation is not there since they are not included in the mainstream major subjects or in the exam. An immediate concern of an AE student is to pass the board. If these potential areas are not included or given less emphasis, why bother learning them.

For me both the Board and the colleges should seriously look at these potential areas.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

AE bilang development managers

Isang aspeto na hindi gaanong binibigyang pansin ng tumataguyod ng ating propesyon ang karampatang kakayahan at pagkadalubhasa ng mga nakapagtapos ng AE sa aspetong development management. Kung ating titingnan sa batas, hindi ito kabilang sa mga tinaguring practice of agricultural engineering.

Pero lingid sa ating lahat, maraming mga planning and development offices (PDOs), NGOs at international agencies ang kumukuha sa serbisyo ng ating mga bayaws. Ang habol ng mga ahensiyang ito ang kakayahan ng isang AE na magdala ng pagbabago sa mga kumunidad na sineserbisyohan nito. Ang kakayahan ng isang AE na makapag-analyze ng mga sitwasyon at galing nitong makikipagsalamuha ang naging daan na maging sikat ang mga AE sa larangan ng development management (rural development, international aid, instutional development). Malimit hindi nila natutunan sa klase ang mga kakayahang ito. Ngunit sadyang innate na sa pagiging AE ang mga katangiang ito (innate skills). Paminsan-minsan tahimik ang mga bayaws na ito dahil sa wari'y ang tingin nila sa kanilang sarili ay hindi sila tunay na AE.

Ngunit kung pagmasdang mabuti, itong grupo ng mga bayaws na ito ay tunay din na AE dahil sa nagseserbisyo sila sa mga magsasaka at maralita. Sila ang mga rural engineers. Nagpaplano, nagdedesign ng mga estratehiya para mapalago ang mga buhay maralita. Hindi conventional na engineer pero sila ang new breed of engineers.

Akin pong iminungkahi na ilakip sa practice ng agricultural engineering ang rural engineering at development management para mabigyang pugay ang nagtratrabaho sa larangang ito at maging proud sila bilang AE. Kung makilala ang development management (rural engineering) bilang isang lehitimong AE practice, alam nating sa pamamagitan nito, maraming makikinabang na magsasaka at mga bayaw na rin sa hinaharap.  

Sa anino ng civil engineering

Nasambit ko sa unang tala na linangin natin ang ating mga kakayahan na kung saan may lamang tayo o di kaya wala masyado tayong kompetensiya sa ibang disiplinang pang-inhenyero. Opinyon ko lang po ang mga ito at base sa naobserba ko mula ng ako ay naging AE. Uunahin natin ang kalagayan natin sa ilalim ng anino ng civil engineering

Isa sa mga naging usapin ay ang pagpapalabas ng PAES na naipasok sa National Building Code (di ako sigurado kung tapos na ito). Ang papalabas ng PAES ay nagbigay ng saya sa mga bayaws. Yehey makasign at seal na kami!!! Pero medyo tahimik pa rin ngayon. Lalong tumahimik ng nagkaroon na di umano'y agreement ang mga boards ng civil and agricultural engineering sa "let the market decide". Sa ganitong kasunduan, tagilid tayo. We are up against 100k CE professionals at saka hindi pa nga tayo kilala ng "market" eh. Aaminin man natin o hindi talagang mahirap makaiwas sa anino ng CE sa ganitong kalagayan.

Ang aking suhestiyon ay ang pag-renegotiate sa CE board ang mga maliit na aspetong meron tayong lamang at ang "let market decide" ay sa mga aspetong alam natin na magaling din sila (assuming na kasingaling natin sila).

Anong aspeto ang dapat ang ilagay sa "let market decide" or ibigay sa CE ng tuluyan:

1) Structural design ng farm buildings
2) Structural design ng fixed structures for irrigation (dams, hydraulic structures)
3) Farm to market roads engineering design 

Ngunit dapat may pirma dapat sa mga aspetong ito:

1) Functional design ng farm buildings. Saan ilagay ang mga parts ng buildings, asan ang pinto, gaano kataas ang ceiling, ano klaseng materials ang gamitin. Pwede natin ibigay ang kontrata sa CE pero dapat merong tayong pirma sa functional aspect nito. Sa tingin ko papayag ang mga CE nito kagaya ng pagpayag nila sa mga EE in terms of electrical works.
2) Sa mga buildings na may biosecurity at environmental control aspects. Sa tingin ko tayo lang ang may kakayahang ipaghalo ang thermodynamics, heat transfer at structural requirements. Mahina ang CE sa thermo at heat transfer eh. As I have said, pwede mo ibigay ang overall na kontrata pero may pirma pa rin tayo sa "environment control". (Note iba ang ibig sabihin sa "environmental control engineering" sa "environmental engineering".)
3) Sa irrigation naman, pwede na nating ibigay ang dam at ang mga concrete canals. Pero dapat may pirma tayo sa systems design. Kung saan ilagay ang intake and canal. Para mamangha ang ating mga CE counterparts, gamitan natin ng crop modelling at agrometeorology para sa water management at crop water requirements. Pwede mo pa isali ang institutional development sa gawain natin.
4) waste management systems - sa tingin ko mas familiar tayo dito (biogas, etc) at hindi malakas and mga CE dito.

Dahil mahina ang CE sa mga aspetong sinasabi ko, dito tayo magpapalakas. Ang mga college subjects natin ay dapat maemphasize ito. Ang board exam ay dapat ganito rin. Pero sa panahon ng kami ay kumuha ng board walang lumabas sa mga aspetong binabanggit ko. For example, ang agriwaste ay maswerte na kung may 2 tanong na lumalabas. Malimit lumalabas ang mga aspetong malakas din ang CE. In fact, kung gamitin mo ang CE reviewer sa hydraulics at structures baka may lumabas pa he he.

Huwag muna nating habulin ang kabubuang farm structures and irrigation. We will collaborate first until we are comfortable in structural design. Aaminin man natin o hindi, mahina pa tayo sa aspetong ito.