The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recently deployed the first working prototype of its locally-made water hyacinth harvester at the MMDA Pumping Station in Taguig. The machine was developed by engineers of the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC) of DOST to address the menace of pose by waterlily swell in our waterways.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said that Rio Grande de Mindanao incident last year which left Cotabato flooded for days paved the way for the conceptualization of the harvester machine.
The water hyacinth harvester is a small-sized vessel that mechanically collects free-floating water hyacinths that congest waterways.
The vessel basically “harvests” hyacinths by way of three linked conveyors (rotating plastics that move materials) at its front, middle and rear. The front conveyor is dipped under the water surface at a certain angle, which allows the harvester to collect whole pieces of hyacinth. The middle conveyor, on the other hand, serves as a temporary storage for the harvested plants. The storage contents are then discharged to an external barge or a specific dumping site by the rear conveyor when full. The harvester’s anterior also has built-in cutters to avoid entanglements of plants when harvesting. Its storage, the middle conveyor, can hold approximately 4.2 cubic meters or 250 kilograms of water hyacinth per load.
According to the engineers, the Harvester is easy to maneuver, very stable, and travels at a speed of three kilometres per hour on water by way of two paddle wheels. All its mechanisms are hydraulically powered, individually controlled, and can be operated by one person. The harvester can finish in 20 days at 8 hour work per day a one hectare of waterlily infested body of water.
Montejo said that the machine can be built on a bigger or smaller scale depending on the need or the size and body of water. “Since this is a working prototype, the DOST is very open to the adoption of the technology and also the improvement of the equipment,” Montejo added.
Corazon T. Jimenez, Undersecretary and General Manager of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said that she expects the harvester to be more cost-efficient than the backhoes mounted on barges which the MMDA currently using to declog the metro waterways. Also, hearing from Sec. Montejo that DOST is building 10 more harvester this year, Usec Jimenez said that she expects one harvester to be permanently stationed in Pasig River to collect hyacinths that flow from the Marikina River.
Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano lauded DOST and MMDA for choosing the City of Taguig as their pilot site in the testing and demonstration of another innovative and breakthrough project. “This machine solves the problem of the
tedious and time consuming manual harvesting of water hyacinths that have clogged our waterways.”
Notorious for its association with dirty river water, the water hyacinth can actually be a very good raw material for a wide range of products that communities can profit from. Among these products are handicrafts, pieces of furniture, and table wares. Just recently, the Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) held a fashion show showcasing fabrics from indigenous textiles like the water hyacinth.
Meanwhile, DOST said that it will continue to develop several technologies that specifically use water hyacinth such as
biogas, animal feeds, and geotextiles that prevent soil erosion.
The machine harvester is a collaboration between DOST-MIRDC and the Project Management Engineering and Design Service Office, with funding of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development. — TJD