Raul M. Palabrica of Pototan, Iloilo started earning a living as a motorcycle mechanic. His early interest in racing motorcycles became a serious business of modifying motorcycles from looks to retooling the engine so that they can be raced in both the official and clandestine tracks of Panay Island. But the need to find a viable income for his growing family and send the children to school forced him to find more sustainable means of income.
As he maintained his motorcycle modification and repair shop, he branched into the repair of farm tools and equipment, starting plows for both carabao and cattle, and, hand tractor pulled single moldboard. The more that he repaired farm equipment, the more that he observed the need to redesign them. So he started with the much used single moldboard plow drawn by either the carabao and the single axle hand tractor. He used schedule 40 black pipes as main frame and tempered steel sheet at the plow plate. The main modification that sped up the plate was the angle of the blade and the curve at the top which totally turns the soil and thus bury the straws and grasses. It also saves 2 hours per hectare for the handtractor because of the lightness and streamlined design of the plow.
Since turning to farm tool and equipment repair and manufacture, business for Raul boomed. His income from his shop has enabled him to send his children to school and to invest in equipment like the TIG and argon gas welding so that he can fabricate stainless steel parts for motorcycles and handtractors. He has also hired more workers, mostly his nephews so that he can have more time for management and to invent more farm equipment.
His latest inventions or rather innovations are the whole handtractor itself. He improved on the drive chain which made it sturdier so the farmer will need less maintenance and chain-change especially since Raul innovated to have a chain tensioner located outside and the bolt can be tightened using a basic spanner.
When farmers brought the problem of still relying on carabaos to plow the sides of the dikes so that there is mud for plastering or water sealing, Raul came up with a contraption for the hand tractor which can plow right to the edge of the dike. He also innovated on the leveler that can be pulled easily by the hand tractor and reduce leveling time by as much as 4 hours compared to other models.
With the inquiries and letters received by windmill innovator Noel Velez of San Miguel (Agriculture Magazine September 2010 issue), this author bridged Noel and Raul where the former agreed to have his windmill fabricated for interested farmers. Upon seeing the working model, Raul made several innovations such as a different type of bearings and reinforcing the main shafting so that the windmill can withstand high velocity winds. He retained the strong points such as the removable vanes in case of typhoons. He also retained the use of the jetmatic pump because of the ease in maintenance.
There are still many things to innovate in farm tools and equipment, as far as Raul concerned. “The usual equipment that we buy from other countries may not always work well in our country. We need to design and fabricate our own, like the once popular turtle hand tractor. Its wide spread use in the 1970s enabled us to recover deep muddy soils by gradually creating a shallow hard pan and later gave way to the easy navigation or operation by the single axle plow”.
“We are thankful for the research agencies like the DOST, IRRI and PhilRice which come up with basic models to innovate from. However we hope for more technical and investment support from these agencies so that we can further modernize farm equipment manufacture locally”.