Innovation paves w
ay to entrepreneurship for cotton farmers in India
“Five years back, I visualized something which others used to only think and complain about. The cotton farmers in my village Biloni and the adjoining areas of Vaijapur Taluka in Aurangabad District were depressed about the dearth of laborers required for cotton plucking in their fields,” reminisces an elated V V Bilonikar, who has brought a ray of hope in the lives of cotton farmers by inventing a Cotton Plucking Machine.
It took almost five years for the young Mechanical Engineer from Marathwada University to invent the Cotton Plucking Machine to tide over the crisis of cotton farmers, who were on the verge of losing their only source of income due to unavailability and high cost of labour required in manual cotton plucking exercise.
Aged 43, Bilonikar hails from a family of cotton farmers and himself owns a land of 15 acres in his village. Working in a company based in Aurangabad as a Manager and armed with a Post Graduate Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Bilonikar also went through his fair share of struggle in building a prototype of the machine few years back. “I have spent
two lacs of rupees from my pocket in making this machine a reality to better the prospects of cotton farmers. Field trials done over a period of four years have finally proved its efficiency and commercial viability,” explains Bilonikar. The Cotton Plucking Machine is based on Vacuum Technology, which runs on a mechanism through which the negative air velocity sucks Cotton in a fast manner and stores it a container attached to the machine. “Most importantly, the process of cotton plucking in this machine is five times faster than the manual plucking exercise done traditionally,” informs Bilonikar. An ecstatic Bilonkar further informs, “Whereas a manual plucking exercise generates a mere 40 to 50 kg of cotton per day, the Cotton Plucking Machine can pluck two quintals of Cotton grown over an area of one acre, in just eight hours.” The machine bears importance because Cotton is a major cash crop of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. There has been an increasing yield of Cotton due to its developed varieties in the past few years. The growing yield of Cotton requires a lot of manpower for plucking it timely to exploit its commercial and production value. Cotton plucking in India is done manually but the harsh reality is that adequate manpower is not available in the rural areas of the country to do the cotton plucking operation in a timely manner. Besides this, If the cotton is not plucked on time, it falls on the ground and loses its quality leading to loss in its market value. “Considering the fact that cotton plucking is a labour intensive job, Cotton Plucking Machine proves to be cost effective option as it brings down the labour cost of cotton plucking and the man power required,” says Bilonikar. The manual plucking cost varies between Rs 2 to 3 per kg, which comes to Rs 200 to 300 for one quintal of cotton plucking. This adds an additional 10 per cent to the cost of cotton, which affects the profitability and market value of the cotton negatively. Moreover, if the Cotton is not plucked on time, the weight of Cotton gets reduced by five per cent and leads to losing its price in the market. Talking about the commercial viability of the machine, Bilonikar says Cotton Plucking Machine costs not more than Rs 15, 000 and a farmer who generates 400 quintals of Cotton can also repay the loan amount incurred on buying the machine. There is also a possibility that some people will buy the machine and exploit its commercial value by offering it to other cotton farmers on rental basis. The cost of plucking through Cotton Plucking Machine is Rs one per kg which is 50 per cent of the manual cotton plucking. The machine will also help replace five laborers. Therefore, delay in the plucking operation can be avoided to a great extent, more so, as Cotton in the same field matures in cycles of definite time intervals. “The machine proves to be economical as it runs on Kerosene oil and requires maintenance cost of Rs 200 annually. Indian patent of the machine done makes it commercially viable,” informs Bilonikar. Cotton is a six monthly crop and sowing is generally done in June to July. The crop is ready for harvesting in September to October. The plucking operation generally happens between September to March every year. Opportunities galore According to officials from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), there will be a good demand for Cotton Plucking Machine in Marathwada region of Maharashtra initially because of its efficiency. Therefore, there is a need to launch this product on a large scale. In order to meet the demand of the Cotton farmers, a detailed plan has been submitted by V V Bilonikar to the state government and financial institutions to set up a Cotton Plucking Machine manufacturing unit at Waluj in Aurangabad. According to the plan, the unit will be located at Waluj as it is well connected by roads, railways, air and has good power supply. Besides this it is a preferred location mores so as Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is coming up in its adjoining area called as Shendre. Aurangabad district has a big rural area of Cotton cultivation. Marathawada region will therefore prove to be the initial market for the unit. Besides that, Cotton Plucking Machine has good market potential for farmers having five to ten acres of land and who face difficulty in cotton plucking, due to the shortage of labour and cost of plucking. As per the plan suggested by Bilonikar, the unit is going to manufacture the machine at a reasonable price so that small farmers can afford the machine. As the machine is a time saving and money saving proposition, the machine will help cotton farmers to increase the profit margin of their cotton produce. “NABARD has already sanctioned an amount of Rs 15 lacs for the project,” says Bilonikar. “Cotton Plucking Machine is an environment friendly product. Besides this, it will serve the business interests of the farmer community and entrepreneurs as it has patent protection,” concludes Bilonikar. - Shardul Nautiyal