Pineapple Leaves Waste Turned Into Biodegradable Drones By M’sian Prof

The pineapples we buy in stores have been reduced to fruit, so for many of us, it’s hard to visualize how much waste they generate for farming.

In a small town of Teluk Panglima Garang, Banting, Selangor, farmers deal with a lot of pineapple waste during the harvesting process.

While this waste could have simply been turned into compost, Professor Thariq thought, why not recycle it instead?

One man’s waste is another man’s treasure

“I started a community engagement program in 2016 called Professor On Duty. With this I would take my university students to villages to run programs for those in need, such as free math, English and science lessons for kids, ”Prof Thariq told Vulcan Post.

After 3 years of back and forth to Teluk Panglima Garang village every weekend, he was approached by one of the religious leaders there about an issue their community was facing, namely waste pineapple.

During the harvest season, which lasts about 12-14 months after the pineapples are sown, all pineapple leaves will be dumped down the drain or set aside to decompose on their own.

The many leaves that the villagers must get rid of / Image credit: Reuters

However, the leaves were getting too heavy to be thrown down the sewer or even left out to rot, so they started to burn the leaves to get rid of them.

“I do not agree with open burning because it pollutes the air and depletes the ozone layer, and the waste accumulated on the side can become a breeding ground for snakes and poisonous insects” , he said.

When Professor Thariq returned to discuss with his research team how to resolve this situation, they realized that they could turn pineapple leaves into natural fibers and do something with it.

After digging, they found out how long the process would take. It would take 30 minutes to extract the fiber from a single sheet, which he said is time consuming and not economical at all.

Take things in his hands

To make the extraction process more efficient, Professor Thariq developed a prototype machine that significantly reduced the extraction time from 30 minutes per sheet to 30 seconds.

It is expensive to create a brand new prototype machine with increased efficiency, but luckily Professor Thariq received a seed grant of RM25,000 at the time from the University of Putra in Malaysia for this program. community involvement, which cushioned the costs.

After the prototype machine was completed, he applied for a patent for the machine and then presented it to the farmers.

With his machine capable of producing more output from the leaves, Prof Thariq thought it would be a good opportunity for farmers to earn extra income by running the machine.

Turning pineapple leaves into natural fibers / Image credit: Reuters

“They all managed to use the machine and turn all the leaf waste into fiber, which was the first chapter. But now that we have fresh fiber, what are we going to do with all that fiber? ”

“So I created a supply chain and turned these fibers into a composite plate,” he said to himself.

Dictionary time: A composite plate is essentially a plate made of composite materials, that is, a resin and a fiber.

Fly the pineapple leaves

When he thought about what to do with these newly made composite plates, the first thing that came to his mind were the drone frames.

A closer look at his drone / Image credit: Reuters

“Drones are made from plastic or composite materials, and they are very expensive to manufacture. If they fell from a certain height, their whole structure would break. In addition, they are not biodegradable, ”he explained.

With the ready-made composite plates that farmers make from pineapple leaves, Professor Thariq designed, cut and assembled them in a drone with help from the Malaysian Unmanned Drones Activist Society (MUDAS).

Get help from MUDAS to fly his drone / Image credit: Reuters

“I also designed it to be a racing drone, where it could fly 1000 feet above sea level and stay aloft for 20 minutes.”

Interestingly, Professor Thariq said his drones are not detectable by radar because they are made from natural fibers.

“If they are still detectable by radar, it is because the batteries are not powered by natural fibers. But if it’s just structure, it’s difficult for the radar to detect, ”he explained.

Professor Thariq has also made sure to file a patent for this design and is looking to create a similar but larger drone that could be used for agricultural or defense purposes.

Drone assembly / Image credit: Reuters

Another supply chain at the top of drones

Besides drones, Professor Thariq also works with a furniture company looking to design synthetic leather furniture, typically made with PVC inlaid with natural fibers.

Although he has already created 2 supply chains with these natural fibers, Prof Thariq added that they can be used for many other things like a door panel, a sticker panel for a car or even for biodegradable packaging.

The machine he and his team created is now kept in the community hall in this village so that farmers can continue to earn income from it.

Right now they are struggling to get the right funding from the right organizations, which Professor Thariq sees as essential to ensure the sustainability of this project.

“I think that as professors we always have to think about ways to play a leading role in research. We have written many articles, and everyone knows it. But the most important thing about being a teacher is that the community should enjoy your existence. ”

Professor Mohamed Thariq bin Hameed Sultan

  • You can read more about Professor Thariq here.
  • You can read more about the other social businesses we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay / UPM

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