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Thai Harvest

November 15, 2011

For 700 years, the people of Bo Klua in rural Thailand have subsisted on rice grown and harvested by hand on steep, rocky slopes. While they enjoy a strong community, these farmers struggle to overcome chronic pain, inefficiency, and low crop yields. This year, a team of students from the Westphal College, the College of Engineering and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, & Health Systems (Biomed) helped them to reach their goals.

Our own Katie VenVertloh, Graphic Design student, travelled to Thailand with the team and was critical to the effort. Katie produced a visual catalog for participatory design, fundraising materials, a website, and several iterations of the main deliverable: a manual enabling the farmers and their advocates to produce and improve the rice planter.

The team will host a seminar, The Thai Harvest Initiative, a multimedia presentation on how four Drexel programs came together to empower Thai farmers to use technology to improve their livelihoods, on Tuesday, November 15th at 5 PM in the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building room 120. A reception will follow with live music by Drexel alumnus Dante Bucci. For more information, visit

The team designed and implemented an efficient and ergonomic rice planter that eliminates pain, cuts sowing time by 50%, and has the potential to increase rice yields.  The team worked with farmers during an adventuresome two-week trip to Thailand that included hosting workshops and an unexpected long hike to escape flooding. The team continues to work with the local Sustainable Development Research Foundation (SDRF) to scale and expand the program.