Read the story of DN Venkat who made climbing a 20 meter high coconut tree easier for farmers for harvesting their crop, saving lives and cultivating better returns. Mohd Mustaquim reports
South Indian coastal areas are known for their coconut production. But, climbing on the trees has always been a challenging task for manual labourers. Sometimes, they get hurt with injuries on their hands, legs and other parts of their body. Most tragically, sometimes they have to lose their lives if they fall due to any mistake.
Thanks to an innovative device - Tree Climber - now the 18 meter height of a coconut tree does not matter for Chandrasekar, 38, a coconut farmer in Pollachi in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. With Tree Climber, he climbs 10 trees every five hour to harvest his coconut crops conveniently. Today, he is able to harvest his coconut crop within the 20 days harvesting period.
Earlier, due to difficulties in climbing such a height, there had been shortage of skilled labourers, escalating the harvesting period to 45-60 days. It sometimes results in crop loss or low prices. It was difficult for the coconut harvesters to climb the coconut trees. According to the Coconut Development Board, it is very rare to find climbers these days in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Goa. Very few people choose to take the risky affair.
Due to lack of availability of labourers, the coconut farmers are able to harvest their crop once in a while. However, in normal conditions, the harvesting period escalates to 45-60 days without any break in the mid.
Hence, a permanent spinner mechanic in a spinning mill for 25 years, DN Venkat from Coimbatore, who lost his job due to shutting down of the mill, started working on a device in 1999 that can ease climbing on the trees. After a decade’s hard work, Venkat innovated a tool in 2008, called Tree Climber. It became popular among the coconut farmers in very short period.
Suddenly after his innovation, he incorporated a company, R Tech Agri Equipments in August 2008. The innovator received consolation award in 2012 and a small loan of Rs 370,000 under Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) scheme of National Innovation Foundation - India (NIF). NIF also supported him in exhibiting the tree climber in Bangalore Agri Expo 2014. The patent has also been filed by NIF on Venkat’s behalf.
“We faced financial crisis while developing this machine. NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) funding was very useful to complete the project. We also faced many technical problems, by getting suggestions from engineers in various fields, we modified the product and had many trials in different types of trees in coconut plantation. Once we received positive feedback from farmers, we submitted the product in University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore for testing,” Venkat further says.
“Since, we made the tree climber, we have sold 150-200 units every year. We received positive feedback and with the support of the farmers and their suggestions, we have developed and modified it further,” adds the innovator. The machine is available in three variants ranging from Rs 7,700 to Rs 9,300.
Taking the creative minds into the mainstream, National Innovation Foundation - India (NIF) has built up a database of more than 2,11,600 technological ideas, innovations and traditional knowledge practices from over 575 districts. NIF, an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, has taken many initiatives to serve the knowledge-rich, economically poor people and has so far recognised more than 775 grassroots innovators, communities and school students at the national level in its various award functions.
It also provides financial supports to innovators through its Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) scheme with a single signature without any collateral or guarantee.
Today, it has become a flag-bearer in promoting rural innovations. Dr. Vipin Kumar, Director and Chief Innovation Officer at NIF says, “We are committed to make India innovative by documenting, adding value, protecting the intellectual property rights of the contemporary unaided technological innovators as well as of outstanding traditional knowledge holders and disseminating them on a commercial and non-commercial basis.”