Decent Rural Living Initiative Designathon

Enhancing health and safety for agricultural workers in Asia

We are looking for innovative Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) solutions, customised to conditions workers face in Asia.

DRLI Designathon: Application Closed

 Application Deadline:.
.Monday, 13th September 2021, 
.18:00 (GMT+8) 


The Decent Rural Living Initiative (DRLI) Designation (think Design + Hackathon) invites design professionals, engineers, students, and innovators to propose innovative PPE solutions for agricultural workers in the tropics to improve their health and safety. 


Mass-produced PPE is often unsuitable for use in the region, for a variety of reasons, ranging from the thickness and weight of materials and poor fitting to hot and humid weather conditions. 

When workers are reluctant to use their PPE properly, the risk of injury and accidents on the job increases. 

This Designathon is your opportunity to apply your skills to make a positive difference to our agricultural workers, making their working conditions simpler, safer, and healthier. 


We want you to be creative. Your solutions may include physical design, material science or behavioural solutions to help workers better adhere to safety standards.


Info Session

About DRLI

The Decent Rural Living Initiative (DRLI) is a pre-competitive collaboration by five leading palm oil producers - Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Sime Darby Plantation, and Wilmar. These organisations are working together with experts and stakeholders to develop long-term solutions that improve health and safety conditions for agricultural workers in Asia. 




Making PPE more comfortable in tropical climate


Promoting adherence to PPE safety standards

Reducing costs and improving quality of PPE


Designathon Challenge Statements

Palm oil plantation workers perform their tasks in challenging environmental conditions, such as hot and humid weather in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions.


Some workers are required to handle fertilisers and chemicals. Others harvest and transport Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) across uneven terrain, and are exposed to activity-related injuries in the plantations.


To provide the necessary protection for these workers, a range of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is provided to them. In addition, some workers need to use masks to protect against COVID-19, as well as seasonal issues like haze.


Women account for a large portion of the agricultural workforce. For example, more than 60% of women in rural Indonesia work in agriculture, however, PPE is generally designed for men and may not be a good fit for women.

In this Designathon, we want you to consider the PPE workers currently use, and take a fresh look at how we might redesign PPE in terms of functionality, material, and even cost-effectiveness. We want you to be creative, and to improve the PPE for three key job types: Harvesters, Sprayers and Fertiliser Spreaders.  


Take inspiration from other industries or functions like sports. Look into new material innovations from cutting-edge sectors like space. Your challenge is to propose creative solutions to improve the comfort of male and female workers while protecting them.


Please select one or more challenges from the categories below and start designing!



PPE: Helmet, Safety eyewear, gloves and boots

Harvesters work in hot and humid conditions, while facing risks of physical injuries. Protective helmets protect them from falling FFB, which can weigh more than 20kg, as well as their own sharp tools. Common feedback from these workers is that the helmets are heavy and thus strain their necks after long hours of working, and  are uncomfortable in the environmental conditions. The harvesting environment is often very dusty, and there are falling leaves. Thus, safety eyewear is provided. But they often fog up or scratch easily.


It is important that both the helmet and eyewear can be worn together in a good fit. Harvesters hold up a sickle attached to a long pole to cut the FFB in a pulling motion which they do while mostly looking up as they work. Their gloves have to provide them with a good grip, sufficiently comfortable in the warm weather, minimise sweating  and provide them adequate protection against snake bites. Harvesters often use steel-toe boots, while these provide good protection, they are heavy and uncomfortable.

 Your Challenges 


Design a helmet that is lightweight and well-ventilated, while providing adequate protection and cognisant of a worker’s mode of work.


Design a pair of safety eyewear that does not easily fog up and is scratch-resistant.

Design a pair of gloves that is comfortable in the warm weather, while providing a strong grip and protection against snake bites.


Design a pair of boots that is lightweight and durable, while providing good protection against the rough terrain and snake bites.



PPE: Headcovering, safety eyewear, respirator, coveralls, gloves and boots

Palm oil crops are susceptible to a range of pests and diseases, and therefore, various pesticides and herbicides are used. To protect sprayers from exposure to those chemicals, they are provided with a full suite of PPEs. The PPEs have to be washed and decontaminated after each use. Additionally it is not obvious as to when a PPE might need to be recoated or refreshed. While coveralls and aprons are generally lightweight, sprayers find them to be uncomfortable in the hot and humid conditions. On the other hand, respirators are found to be slightly heavy and thus uncomfortable to wear.


Any design you propose should fit well and is comfortable to wear in the hot climate; and importantly provide adequate protection from chemicals.

 Your Challenges 


Design a headcovering that is lightweight and well-ventilated, while offering the same protections from chemicals to the users.

Design a pair of safety eyewear that does not easily fog up and is scratch resistant, while offering the same protections from chemicals to the users.


Design a respirator that is lightweight and fits well.

Design a coverall that not only fits well to people of different gender and  stature (heights and sizes) but can be easily maintained by the worker.


Design a pair of gloves that focuses on safety, are easy to use, and effectively overlaps with the coverall.


Design a pair of boots that can be easily washed and decontaminated, and can cope well with the rough terrain.


 Fertiliser Spreaders /   Applicators 

Workers often have to move around the plantation with heavy loads, and sometimes uneven ground makes it harder to support the heavy loads with tools.


Maintenance workers spread fertilisers at the base of the palm trees. To do so, they have to hoist a sack of fertilisers on their back or hip, and go from tree to tree to manually apply the fertilisers. Each sack can be around 30 to 40kg, and each worker covers 2 to 4 hectares per day.

 Your Challenge 

Design a new way for the workers to reduce the physical strain when carrying the fertilisers.


Why You Should Join

Shortlisted teams will receive US $100 to help build their prototypes during the Designathon.

Selected teams will receive an opportunity to work with leading agribusinesses to develop and commercialise their solutions.

Additionally, our winning teams will take home the following cash prizes:


 First Place 

  US $3,000  


 Second Place 

  US $2,000  


 Third Place 

  US $1,000  



25 August


Week of
20 September


2 August


13 September


25 September -
4 October



The Designathon Process


25 Sep (Sat)

Day 1 Designathon


29 & 30 Sep
(Wed & Thu)

1-on-1 Check In


2 Oct (Sat)

Pitch Coaching


4 Oct (Mon)

Pitch Day

Lead Sponsors


Co-Organised By

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Supporting Partners

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