Friday, August 06, 2010

Agricultural engineer develops modern analysis for milled rice

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 6, 2010) - A local agricultural engineer in Nueva Ecija's Munoz City said he has developed a state-of-the-art, but low cost Computer Vision System which can analyze the quality of milled rice.

Manolito C. Bulaong, director for Research and Development at the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization of the Department of Agriculture, conducted the study leading to the development of the CVS.

According to Bulaong, the CVS uses an ordinary document scanner that serves as the “eye” of the system. The scanner replaces the expensive digital cameras being used in conventional CVS. While the image processing software, extracts the shape and color patterns from each grain image.

The artificial neural network acts as the “brain” of the system. Just like a human brain, the ANN was trained to recognize the shape and color patterns from each grain and learn the quality category it belongs.

The CVS can compute the percentage by weight of good quality grains and defective grains such as broken grains, brewer’s grain, damaged, chalky, discolored, immature, and red kernels present in a sample.

It can also count the number of palay grains, measure the grain length, and output of the grade of milled rice according to the specification of the National Grains Standard.

“As our country gears up for globalization, grains standardization is one of the strategies for modernizing the agriculture sector particularly improving the efficiency and global competitiveness of the grains industry”, Bulaong said.

The conventional milled rice quality analysis is a tedious and slow process and the analysis takes more than an hour per sample and costs 550 pesos for complete analysis.

Aside from being slow and expensive, the result is subjective as it is affected by the skill and physical condition of the classifier, lighting, and other working conditions.

At the National Food Authority, trained classifiers visually inspect each milled rice grain based on size and color characteristics, each grain is classified according to the quality category it belongs and presented on a percentage weight basis.

The result of the research revealed that the CVS, aside from being more objective and accurate, it is also faster then manual analysis. It can do complete analysis of a 100-gram sample in less than 30 minutes compared to more than one hour using manual analysis

“The development of the low-cost CVS for milled rice quality analysis will ensure objective, accurate, and fast results and will modernize the existing method being used by the grain industry,” Bulaong said.

The PHilMech-implemented project was funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development in collaboration with NFA.

Other researchers in the project “Quality Analysis of Milled Rice Using Computer Vision” were Engr. Ruben E. Manalabe and Jayson T. Carbonel of the Postharvest Engineering Department of PHilMech and Dr. Oliver C. Agustin of Vera Equinox Technologies.

For this project, Bulaong and his team were given recognitions by different award giving bodies like the Central Luzon Agricultural Resources Research and Development Consortium and Bureau of Agricultural Research, to name a few.

Bulaong, a member of the Philippine Society of Agricultural Engineers, earned his bachelor’s degree at the Central Luzon State University in 1982 and his master’s degree in applied science in food engineering in 1994 at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

In 2003, he obtained his doctorate in agricultural engineering, major in crop processing at the University of the Philippines in Los BaƱos in Laguna province through the PCARRD Scholarship Award.

At present, the CVS is still on the development stage, however, interested readers who want to know more about the CVS, may write or visit PHilMech.

The center was created in November 2009 replacing the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension through Executive Order 366 or the government’s rationalization plan. (Erwin S. Embuscado - Special to the Mindanao Examiner)

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