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

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Jab drive announced for two more Phnom Penh districts

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration on May 15 announced a first-dose novel-coronavirus vaccination campaign for Boeung Keng Kang and Sen Sok districts from May 18-31, and a follow-up second-shot drive from June 1-15. Twenty vaccination sites have been set up in a combined 13 communes across both