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Studies on Manual Harvesting of Cacao to Inform Potential Technological Advancements


Concerns for consistent supply of cacao to meet increasing demand has pushed the need for technological innovations to increase production of cacao in a sustainable manner. The harvesting process for cacao is tedious and labor intensive due to the manual process and continuous harvesting throughout the year. Advances in technology for cacao harvesting could help increase productivity, reduce costs, and increase profitability for farmers. Understanding of current harvesting practices is critical to address the need for development of technological advancements in cacao harvesting that also considers the complexity of implementing such advancements in smallholder cacao farms. Four studies in this dissertation seek to develop further understanding of manual cacao harvesting from viewpoints that incorporate considerations of technical, environmental, economic, and social factors.

First, a motion-time study was conducted to identify movements in the harvesting process of cacao fruit, also known as pods, that can potentially be replaced, aided, or complemented by technological advancements. Four tasks were identified as elements in manual harvesting cacao pods: Search, Sever, Pick up, and Carry. Second, a cacao pod pick up system was designed to reduce movement requirements in the cacao harvesting process. A prototype of the design was developed and tested for its performance. Third, a systems study using coupled human-natural systems approach was done to model relationships between cacao harvesting and factors such as weather, bean price, labor availability, pest severity, and farmer’s profit expectation. The model simulated dynamics between the relationships due to changes in these factors. Finally, a case study of smallholder cacao farmers in the region of East Luwu, Indonesia explored how farmers perceive transformations in cacao farming practices based on their own challenges and knowledge structure of the transformation. Insights gained from the studies addressed multiple ways considerations need to be made in efforts to provide technological advancements to the cacao harvesting process.

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