A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION ON THE USAGE OF AN EXOSKELETON SYSTEM FOR MANUAL HARVESTING OIL PALM TREES

Author: Muhammad Fuad, MOHD, Hazreen H., HARITH

Abstract: Agricultural activities in Malaysia is still laborious at large as numerous tasks are performed manually, including in the oil palm industry. The involvement of manual and energy-intensive activities for harvesting tasks in oil palm plantations partly limits its productivity. The manufacturing industry still involves manual tasks, however, exoskeleton systems are actively adopted to improve productivity and safety of operations involving human. Therefore, we postulate that they could also be applied in the agricultural industry. A challenge in adopting any commercially available exoskeleton system for harvesting oil palm trees is to match the system’s feature and the requirements of the harvesting task. Since manual harvesting requires extensive upper limb motion, therefore this study investigates the feasibility of using a passive upper limb exoskeleton system for manual harvesting activity. Electromyography (EMG) signal of the anterior deltoid muscle located at the shoulder was compared when carrying 2 kg, 4 kg and 5 kg loads with and without an upper limb exoskeleton system. The test involved tugging motion and holding the weights at arm’s length for 1 minute. EMG results indicate that the muscle activity was reduced when performing these exercises while donning the exoskeleton for all tested loads. Nonetheless, the exoskeleton design requires optimization to suit oil palm harvesting tasks so that the productivity and safety of manual oil palm harvesting activity can be enhanced.

Keywords: Exoskeleton, Muscle activity, EMG, Fatigue, Oil palm, Manual harvesting, Biomechanics

 

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