I am currently undergoing a research project which will utilize pineapple leaf fibre (PALF). The study is to develop a fibre-reinforced composite made up of cement, sand, water and modified PALF. PALF will be undergoing a chemical modification called alkali treatment or mercerization. This is to remove unwanted components of the fibre. Generally, this is to improve the interfacial adhesion (bond) between the fibre and the cement matrix.
Basically speaking (trying to minimize jargons here), this study will determine how the chemical modification and variation of fibre content will affect the physical and mechanical properties of the resulting product which is the composite.
What is T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC)?
Dole Philippines, Inc (Dolefil) has about 1,500 pineapple growers belonging to five grower cooperatives. However, not all pineapple growers and farmers of Dolefil are making use of generated pineapple leaves. One grower cooperative in T’boli, South Cotabato is the T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC).
T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC) is one of the many beneficiaries of the Department of Agriculture, thru the PhilFIDA last March 2017. They have been provided with five (5) decorticating machineries to help increase the supply of pineapple fibres. The cooperative has a total of ten (10) decorticating machines at present with the additional five machines. This is in answer to the huge demand for pineapple fibres by countries in the Europe.
I have interviewed Mr. Adolfo Tanco Jr., the manager of T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC). According to him, the cooperative has a contract with the company Ananas Anam. The cooperative needs to target the 50-kg per day requirement as per contract. However, Tanco mentioned that they usually exceed the daily requirement.
Presently, T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC) is supplying fibres to Ananas Anam of United Kingdom who produces pineapple leather material called “Piñatex”. With these decorticating machines, the farmer beneficiaries are expected to produce good quality pineapple fibers needed in the manufacture of Piñatex substrates and Piñatex leather alternative products such as shoes, bags and other accessories. Imagine how far Filipino products can go?
Since the cooperative is still starting with the recently donated machineries from PhilFIDA, new applications of fibres may open new opportunities and provide additional income to the growing cooperative .
How PALF is extracted at T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC) ?
Customarily, pineapple leaf fibres are extracted by hand scraping method. Thanks to the decorticating machine! Fibres can now be extracted mechanically. These fibres are the main source of raw materials for bags, clothings, shoes, furniture, decorative materials, and even construction materials.
Step 1: Preparation of Materials.
Harvested pineapple leaves will be delivered to the area using a truck. According to fiber economics of T’boli Farm Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TFGMPC), they spend P1000 in a day for the fuel in trucking. Another 3 liters of diesel will be used for the machines in a day.
Step 2: Observe proper Personal Protective Equipment PPE.
Each feeder and washer is required to observe PPE to protect them against health and safety risks.
Step 3: Feeding of Leaves to the Machine
After the engine has started, pineapple leaves will be fed to the machine. Half of the leaf sheaths will be fed to the chamber. Then, they will be pulled out. The other half again will be fed using the same process.
Step 4: Washing of Fibre
The extracted fibre will be washed with flowing water without any added chemical. This is to remove other contaminants and dirt.
Step 5: Drying of Fibre
Next, the fibre will be air-dried. Usually, it takes about four to five hours before the fiber completely dries. You will notice that the color of the fiber will turn from green to white once the process has been completed.
Step 5: Storage
Lastly, the dried fibre will be stored in a place that is free of moisture. This is to prevent moisture absorption of the fibre that will cause it to deteriorate.
The cooperative already faced many challenges before, even until today, such as low commodity prices and high production inputs costs. There are many obstacles for growers. These challenges are still ongoing us they need to utilize every tool at their disposal for them to survive and prosper.
I believe that the development of fibre-reinforced composite would not be a competition to the present pineapple textile industry. Thus, it will open new opportunities and provide additional income to the growing cooperative. This is supported by the data from PhilFIDA that the production of pineapple leaf fibre has declined by 27.1% in 2016. The drop in output is attributed to the irregular demand for PALF as pina products are expensive.
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littlemisadvencha is a Filipino Civil Engineer, M.S. student in Structural Engineering and a fur mom of four-legged babies. She writes about her experiences to inspire and educate.