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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Coffee is part of the genus Coffea which is under in the family Rubicaeae, a flowering plant which belongs to a large family that comprises of around 500 genera and 6000 species. The number of species documented by different authors, ranges from 25 to 100 (Wrigley, 1988).

It thrives best in places with frequent rains, warm but not extreme temperatures, and hilly areas having an altitude of 600 to 1200 meters (2000 to 4000 feet) above sea level. Hence it has been cultivated in high tropical areas in the world. It is physically described as a woody bush and it can potentially grow as high as 12 meters (39 feet), but those grown domestically are trimmed to 2 meters (6.5 feet) for the convenience of the coffee growers when harvesting. The tree blossoms small white flowers and followed by a red plump fruit called the 'coffee cherry' which holds a couple of beans. One coffee tree can produce cherries for about forty cups of coffee annually (Gregory & Luttinger, 1999).

The history of coffee traces back to 1740 when a Spanish Franciscan monk introduced it in Lipa, Batangas. The first coffee tree caught the attention of adjacent towns effortlessly. Batangas had supplied coffee to both US and European market as early as 1860. The production has expanded to Cavite in year 1870 with the first tree planted in Amadeo town. The Philippines became the fourth major coffee exporter by 1880 and even became the sole supplier of beans when coffee rust has plagued Brazil and Africa during the era. Unfortunately, the prime of coffee exportation ended in 1889 when coffee rust and insect swarm hit the country.

However, the industry recuperated in the 1950's with the introduction and production of instant coffee which gave rise to the demand of coffee beans. The supposed steadiness in the demand in the coffee market in the 1960's, coffee farmers resumed coffee farming. Nevertheless, the global market and the Philippines experienced a surplus in the supply side for that matter and the Philippine government issued an import ban on coffee to protect local producers. Currently, the country with highest production of coffee is Brazil (Peace and Equity Foundation, 2016).

In the Philippines, four main types of coffee are grown. Namely, Liberica, Excelsa, Arabixa, and Robusta. Liberica comprises 2 percent, Excelsa at 8 percent, Arabica at 16 percent, and Robusta at 74 percent. In, the production of instant coffee, the Robusta variety is the major type used. The Liberica, Excelsa, and Arabica are frequently used to blend with other varieties in order to yield flavors that is unique to individual coffee manufacturers (Idago & Dela Cruz, 2011).

The situation of the country's coffee industry is promising and is full of opportunities in terms of demand. According to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the local supply cannot meet the growing demand for coffee. Out of 65,000 Metric Tons annual consumption, only 30,000 Metric Tons came from the local supply. The deficit came from imports from countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. DTI stated that coffee is one of the priority area for development. The deteriorating coffee production in the Philippines is because of factors such as old-fashioned production practices, low yielding coffee trees, low buying price, crop diversification of farmers, and last but not the least, lack of postharvest production and processing facilities (Lorenciana, 2016).

Also, according to Statistics Portal, a company which provides market trends and statistics to private individuals, shows a trend in the coffee consumption in the Philippines (See Appendix B)

The involvement of the private sector has rehabilitated the interest of coffee farming. For example, Nestle Philippines Inc., the largest purchaser of green coffee beans and the most prominent manufacturer of soluble coffee in the Philippines under their brand 'Nescafe' has shown intention in buying more coffee berries from local producers and less from import to help local growers (Abello, 2012).

The awareness in the improving the coffee industry is transforming. The primary reason for such is the objective of making the country self-sufficient in coffee, higher income opportunities for entrepreneurs and producer and rise of export rates of specialty coffee (Idago & Dela Cruz, 2011).

Internationally, the United Nations support the farmers and SME owners from poor countries. According to a manual release, Supplying the necessary equipment and tools to farmers will provide higher profit margin. UNIDO (The United Nations Industrial Development Organization) runs several programs to support small-scale food processing sector. They intend to improve the SME's processing methods and implement quality assurance. Processed fruit products which are processed better have higher 'added value' and resulting in giving higher possible income for SMEs. But in order to achieve this, small scale equipment is needed (Fellows, 2004).

The supply chain of coffee has several members. Each participant has its own role the value chain (See Appendix A) but in some cases, each can have more than one role. The members of the supply chain are mainly farmers but their numbers is indirectly proportional to the income opportunities present to them. This is because they only deal with intermediaries, primarily traders. The coffee grower's income is limited to the selling of un-husked berries or dried beans (Caluza, 2013).

Coffee farmers and Coffee traders can achieve higher profit potential if they are provided a machine that fits their specific needs. According to Dann Pantoja, author of the blog 'coffee for peace', Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME's) involved in the coffee industry are facing enormous challenges relating to their products. One of which is the inability to acquire coffee equipment /machinery required in to increase their productivity due to huge capital investment necessary for such acquisition (Pantoja, 2016).

There are traditional ways in depulping coffee from the berry. In case of the coffee growers in Cordillera Administrative Region, they generally depulp Arabica beans by means of old-fashioned practices. The locals place the berries in a sack and step on the berries. They also pound the beans using mortars and pestles and also use rough stones and wooden pulpers for few harvest amounts. Sixty-two (62) percent of the coffee growers are still using mortar and pestle. After the depulping process, the pulp is separated manually from the wet parchment, then placed in vessels like plastic bags and pails and to be fermented for at least 24 hours (Idago & Dela Cruz, 2015).

According to PhilMech researchers Rodelio G. Idalgo, Mary Joy Paico and Renita S.M. Dela Cruz, not only does the low production of green coffee beans that hinders the supply chain of Arabica Coffee in Benguet but also by the quality itself instigated by poor postharvest practices and outdated postharvest facilities. This is what they concluded in their study 'Supply Chain Improvement of Arabica Coffee in the Cordillera Region.' The results of the study revealed that lack of equipment like hullers, pulpers, and moisture meter for coffee results in inefficiencies in the postharvest system. Coffee beans are being graded depending on the number of key defects. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) grade and categorize the coffee beans in this manner. The categories are as follows: to be considered as Class 1 coffee, it should have 0 to 5 defects; class 2, 6 to 8 defects; class 3, 9 to 23 defects; class 4, 24 to 86 defects; and class 5, more than 86 defects (Embuscado, 2010).

According to Benguet Agricultural Office, the inapt pulping and hulling procedures is the root cause of low quality coffee beans thus affecting Arabica production. The statement was backed by the study performed by Rodelio Idago and Renita Dela Cruz. The study showed that the traditional way of pulping by locals of Cordillera produced grade 4 Classification. Note that Grade 4 Classification has a range of 24 to 86 defects in a 300-gram sample making the sample 'Below Standard Coffee Grade' based on the criteria from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Unambiguously, the current method of pulping and hulling cause a high percentage of broken beans (14.23) broken down therefore 6.17% and 8.06% due to pulping and hulling of dry bean weight respectively (Idago & Dela Cruz, 2011).

There have been efforts to improve the condition of local coffee growers in rural areas. Initial support came in the form of the introduction of corresponding postharvest apparatuses like the manual coffee pulper, huller and moisture meter. The utilization of the said apparatuses reduced the high occurrence of broken beans by 50 percent (Embuscado, 2010).

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech) formerly known as Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension or (BPRE) introduced equipment to improve local coffee production. One of the equipment is the manual coffee pulper. The pulper is portable and fabricated using locally available materials. It averts the coffee beans from breaking down because of its depulping cylinder. It has a capacity of 40 to 50 kg/hr. and is operable by an individual. The farmers who used the manual pulper for the first time took three hours in depulping one sack of coffee whereas the ones who are used to only took 30 minutes (Embuscado, 2010).

However, the post-harvest facet of coffee does not end in the acquisition of necessary equipment as stated by Nas M: 'It is not common for traditional farmers to just suddenly decide to adapt to new technology, especially in rice.' Traditional methods can be a barrier in endorsing new technology. Early adopters of new equipment and methods can support the agenda of showing traditional farmers the benefits of leaving their comfort zones in exchange of potential advancement (Nas, 2010).

There are traditional and labor-intensive methods of pulping coffee but these methods are not efficient in the long run. One of the biggest hindrances in attaining efficient coffee production is the insufficient capacity of the semi mechanical (Manual) coffee skin pulper. To solve this problem, the coffee skin pulper must be motor driven (Simanulang, Munir and Harahap, 2013).

Coffee Pulping is a crucial part in the process. Coffee pulp even though a waste product has different uses. Research shows that coffee pulp waste can be a potential source of bio ethanol. 'If these agricultural residues are put to good use, such as production of bioethanol, contamination and fouling of the environment can be avoided. Moreover, it will add to the carbon credit of the country by using it for bioethanol production as a renewable resource for energy and provide value addition to the farm sector' (Shenoy, Pai, Vikas, Neeraja, Deeksha, Nayak, Rao, 2011, p.5).

Agriculture is very important sector in the society it provides all the needs of every people specially food. To have a better production, mechanical application is of great importance. Mechanical applications are found in every aspect of agriculture. Some instances of trade relating to agricultural mechanics are: an engineer who designs tractors and other farm and ranch machineries, the constructor of processing plants, farm and aquaculture facilities, electricians who install climate controls, silo unloaders, and milling paraphernalia, the refrigeration and air conditioning specialist in processing and storage facilities (Cooper, 1992). With this statement, we can say that mechanical engineering application is vital in the advancement of agricultural processes.

The coffee farm in Magalang Pampanga was small and intercropped with Banana and Bamboo this proves the statement by the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines that coffee farms tend to be either smallholders, which are independently owned lots that can be as small as 1.5 hectares and wherein coffee is intercropped with coconut and fruit trees; or plantations, there are very limited commercial scale plantations in the country. These Filipino farmers sell their green coffee at world prices to middlemen or corporations who roast, distribute, and most of the time, grind their coffee and send them to retailers.

To better understand how the depulping process works, one should also look into the physiology of a coffee berry. The berry is described as plum, typically fleshy encapsulating two sometimes one seeds. The sized differs and very tiny in form. The colors vary from yellow to black but most commonly orange to red. The disc of Coffee Liberica is protruding on the fruit, while several species' peak is bound into a beak or simply described as bottle-neck shaped. Grooved fruits are also recognized in the genus. The crust of the fruit contains the pulp called as the mesocarp, which juicy (although not applicable in all species) this encases the endocarp or parchment shell. The seed is found inside the parchment. On the other hand, the Arabica Coffee has a seed coat known as the 'silver skin' which in other species, is not silvery in color. The seeds usually taper little to one end and have a crease down the middle of their flattened edges at the place where two seed come together in fruit. The embryo is straight, slightly curled and is bounded by the pale endosperm which becomes spikey when matured and dry (Wellman, 1961) and (Bridson, 1982, 1988).

(See Appendix C for the Section of a Coffee Fruit)

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