A coffee roaster developed for farmers

Dr Ruel M. Mojica believes his latest academic work is set to change the livelihoods of Filipino coffee farmers. In his previous studies on the coffee chain, Mojica, an agricultural engineer at Cavite State University (CaVSU) in the Philippines, came across the information that the roasting process adds significant value to coffee. As such, he came up with a plan to put that additional revenue into the farmers’ hands. Mojica notes that farmers in the coffee capital of Indang, like most coffee farmers the world over, only sell their beans in raw form. As part of his latest dissertation work, Mojica, wanted to develop a microcontroller-based machine that small-scale coffee farmers could use to roast their own produce then sell at a higher price. He worked for months alongside coffee farmers in the region of Indang to assess a coffee roaster that would best suit their needs. “I used a participatory approach in the design of the machine where coffee farmers played an important role,” Mojica says. The farmers gave their input into the design of the machine, on factors such as capacity levels and cost restrictions. “They wanted a low cost machine that was locally manufactured…The engagement of the farmers within the coffee business was crucial,” Mojica says, adding that the additional income should help boost the development of the local coffee industry.  The Philippines have a long history of coffee farming and was once considered one of the leading coffee-producing nations during the 19th Century. Today, the Philippines produce 30,000 tons of coffee a year, according to the Philippine Coffee Board. Still a traditional profession, Mojica says the coffee farming industry could be made even more profitable for growers. He notes that farmers in the Philippines are mostly small stakeholders and the use of a roasting machine would allow farmers to roast their own produce and sell to local coffee shops at a higher price. “There is a demand for roasted beans here in the Philippines,” Mojica says. Mojica, who is also an officer-in-charge of the National Coffee Research, Development and Extension Center of CaVSU, says the roaster could also be used by small-scale processors and coffee shop owners. Unlike existing roasting machines on the market which are almost all made overseas and must be imported, this design is relatively lost cost. “All the materials are sourced locally so the farmers can buy the roaster at an affordable price,” Mojica says. “For this reason, the roaster is versatile, innovative and efficient.” The cost and return analysis of this roaster shows a potential net income of P51,744.32 (US$1190.33) annually. The benefit-cost ratio is 1.65, meaning for every Philippine peso spent for use of the roaster, the gross return of P1.65 (US$0.04) is expected. Mojica says the machine’s initial cost of P25,362.45 (US$583.44) can be recovered in approximately 186 days of continuous operation. To reach the break-even point, he says at least 1219.45 kilograms of beans should be roasted per year. The roaster was designed and manufactured at the College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology in UPLB. The machine has a 10 to 15 kilogram input capacity and is made of stainless steel. It is constructed of six major parts including the roasting chamber, outside drum, auger, heating plate, and burner. The prototype model of the batch-type coffee roaster was first completed in 2005, after two years of planning. Since then, further improvements have ensued. The machine has been tested on different coffee varieties including Arabica and Liberica. The researchers also developed a microcontroller-based temperature control unit and software that can automatically control the machine for a given period of time. Mojica is confident his relatively inexpensive machine has addressed common problems of heat loss inside the roasting chamber by adding insulating materials. Mojica says that the microcontroller device  he installed in the roaster is certainly the standout feature. “It automatically controls the operation of the machine,” he says. “You simply set the roasting time and temperature, and that’s it.” While the device can set both time and temperature simultaneously and control the degree of roast by the touch of the temperature setting, Mojica says there is also flexibility in controlling the final roasting results by increasing or decreasing the roasting time. The microcontroller also has a built-in sensor to check the temperature throughout the roasting cycle to avoid over-roasting. Performance tests conducted that Mojica and Elauria conducted showed that the optimum roasting temperature is at 204.5 degrees Celsius, 19.75 minutes roasting time and 12.25 per cent moisture content of green beans. The machine is due to be available to farmers in the Philippines in early 2012. Mojica says already a number of coffee farmers, co-operatives, coffee shop owners and entrepreneurs have expressed their interest in buying the machine. “The potential buyers of the machine are distributed among the different provinces in the country,” he says. “This confirms that the coffee roaster has a good market prospect and will be very important to the coffee industry.” 

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