Strapped comfortably with a back-support and safety harness, in less than 30 seconds, a farmer scaled an arecanut tree as high as 30 metres. He did so with an indigenously-developed vertical scooter, which allowed him to climb the tree without taxing his muscles or bruising his arms or legs -- otherwise an inevitable part of the trade.
It took two long years to develop the scooter-like tree climber, said K Ganapathi Bhat, a farmer from Komale in Bantwal taluk in Dakshina Kannada, who constructed and designed the vehicle to help people climb trees effortlessly.
A Bachelor of Science graduate in Physics, Chemistry and Maths, Bhat said that a shortage of climbers in the region motivated him to develop the ‘mechanical vehicle’ that would enable farmers to climb and cultivate their trees.
“Having been born in a family with an agricultural background, it was painful to see the ripe coconut and arecanut either eaten by birds or falling across the fields. In the current situation, where there is a substantial migration of well-educated youngsters to the cities for white collar jobs, there is a huge scarcity of employment in labour-intensive sectors like agriculture, especially those skilled in climbing trees. So I felt the need to do something to save the crops,” Ganapati said.
About two years ago, 60-year-old Ganapathi said, based on the mechanism of a bike, he started designing a petrol-run variant vehicle that could climb trees. The machine itself weighs around 28 kilograms, which consists of hydraulic drum brakes, a hand gear, double chain, and a safety belt. An average person weighing around 80 kilograms can climb the tree within a time span of 30 seconds. “It runs on petrol. For a liter of petrol, a farmer can climb nearly 90 trees without any disruption,” Ganapathi said.
Pegged at a cost of Rs 75,000 per unit, the vehicle comes with a brake as well as a clutch for the smooth movement of the machine.
Further, the bike can be strapped to trees with different widths, but with a smooth surface. In case the brake fails, a backup brake will jam the wheels and stop the vehicle from rolling down the tree.
Ganapathi said that he himself tested the machine on around 2,000 trees at his farm in Komale near Panolibail in Sajipamunnur in Bantwal. “We have also conducted experiments on trees with algae, but found that it does not work on mushy or moisture-based surfaces. Subsequently we warn our buyers in advance to not carry out such trials and put themselves at risk,” he said.
Ganapathi said that although companies from Singapore, South Africa and Thailand have approached him to establish a manufacturing unit for the bike, Ganapathi said that he has refused the offer. “I wish to partner with an organisation that would help me share the technology with the farmers to benefit them. I do not wish to seek royalties for such a venture. But I want to make sure that this product reaches as many farmers as possible, so that, in some way, it helps in the development of the overall agricultural scenario of the country,” he said.
Ganapathi added that at present he is working on improving the mechanisation of the vehicle.
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