Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Eli’ planter a solution to labour dearth

‘Eli’ planter a solution to labour dearth

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Farmers in the Kingdom use the Eli rice planter, which uses air pressure to send seeds into the ground. Its invetor claims it improves efficiency by cutting seed use and labour costs. The device is currently being used in the country as well as in the Philippines and Malaysia. facebook

‘Eli’ planter a solution to labour dearth

Despite the Kingdom having a very young population, the economy, which depends in part on the agriculture sector, is facing a labour shortage.

Opportunities in neighbouring countries are attracting many who would have otherwise been hired in farming.

Seeking to overcome this challenge with technology, a Cambodian farmer invented a new type of rice planting mechanism dubbed “Eli”.

The tool recently won the celebrated Patents for Humanity award given out by the US government.

The Post’s Hin Pisei sat down with San Bunika, country director of agriculture association Agri-Smart, to talk about his invention.

What is Eli and why did you invent it?

Eli is a rice planter that uses air pressure to shoot the rice seeds into the soil. For flooded rice fields, it can shoot the rice seeds 1cm into the soil and for unflooded rice fields, it can shoot to a depth of 3-4cm.

This process can significantly reduce seed use, down to between 30 and 100kg per ha compared to between 200 and 300kg, which is how much farmers traditionally use.

As a farmer myself, I know what we need. Planting rice by traditional methods uses a lot of rice seeds, labour, pesticides and fertiliser. It is especially difficult to sow seeds when the field is flooded. This is why I worked hard to invent a solution to the problem.

When was Agri-Smart founded?

Agri-Smart was founded in late 2014 as a project under an NGO named Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia (BB2C), which was founded in 2008 by an American woman, Paula Shirk. BB2C works on humanitarian causes by providing pump wells to people in rural areas of Cambodia.

I started researching the problem in 2014 and in July 2016 Eli was invented. So far we have produced 80 units which have sold out. We are producing 20 more units based on the new orders from various clients.

Eli is named after the main sponsor of BB2C.

Where is Eli sold and how much does it cost per unit?

We have delivered it to 15 different provinces and we hope that Eli will reach all cities and provinces very soon. Additionally, it has been exported to the Philippines and Malaysia for trial use. Nigeria and Chad are also requesting to import the device for trial runs.

Eli is priced at $1,140 per unit, but an Australian NGO called Cavac helps to pay for 30 per cent of each unit. This is part of the Australian government’s directive to help Cambodia’s agricultural sector.

Are there any institutions or companies that have invited you to explain your product?

Because Eli has gotten attention from farmers and investors, we were invited to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and several NGOs asked us to join an exhibition related to rice farming.

I am very proud to promote the product we invented for Cambodia.

In mid-October, I will participate in the fifth International Rice Congress in Singapore. Rice growing countries around the world will be there, and hopefully, hear about how Eli can bolster their rice sectors.

Do you have plans to develop any more farming implements?

I am planning to invent two more pieces of equipment for agriculture work, but I would like to keep them a secret for now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea