Born into an agricultural family in a village in Gujarat's Junagadh district, Bhanjibhai Mathukiya has lived an innovator's life to the fullest. From inventing low-cost tractors and sprayers to constructing over 25 check dams across Gujarat and Rajasthan, the innovator has been a tinkerer all his life. His other inventions include a ground nut sprayer, a mechanism to store grains at low cost, and an airborne agricultural sprayer.
Back in the 80s, Bhanjibhai realised that smaller farmers growing groundnut and orchards didn't really need high capacity tractors. They were also unaffordable for most farmers living in the Saurashtra region. Bhanjibhai invented a 10 horsepower tractor using a diesel engine and the chassis of a jeep. Priced at less than half of the alternatives available in the market, Bhanjibhai's three and four-wheeled tractors were an instant hit. With help from his son and nephew, soon nine more tractors were up and running, with great demand among farmers.
Things became difficult soon afterwards. The regional transport office challenged him over the tractor's design specifications, and he had to sign an affidavit declaring he'll never bring the tractors on the road. Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) was instrumental in helping Bhanjibhai standardise the design of the tractors, and market them to a larger customer base.
Founder of the National Innovation Foundation (India) and a senior professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Anil K Gupta, in an interview with Business Standard said that despite the bigger tractor companies doing good business through high-powered vehicles, funding for 10-12 HP tractors would soon flow in, considering that there is such a large pool of small farmers.
In 2002, when farmers of Saurashtra were struggling with depleting groundwater and low rains, Bhanjibhai again came forward to help solve the widespread water scarcity. At a mere cost of Rs 10,000, he built a check dam on the river Dharfad which passed through his village. With one mason and four labourers, he built this dam in four days. This led to increased greenery and water in the wells of the nearby area. Soon, he was asked by the villagers to build many more of these dams, a initiative which continues till date.
Speaking about the benefits of building these dams, Bhanjibhai told The Hindu, "The next major source for irrigation is the well. However, with the end of rainfall the underground level of waterfalls drastically. The check dam prevents water from running off and also recharges the water table."
For his innovations, Bhanjibhai was conferred with a lifetime achievement award by the National Innovation Foundation in 2017. He has also represented India at the Commonwealth Science Council in South Africa and has served as part of the Research Advisory Advisory Committee for the National Innovation Foundation.