Reducing the risk to human life, this durable, easy-to-operate machine makes the laborious task of coconut harvesting easier.
For 23-year old Prathamesh S Pote and his friend Geet R Kalsulkar (22), it was casual interaction with a common friend that triggered a much useful innovation idea.
“We have a mutual friend, Abhijeet Purohit who owns 800 coconut trees in Rajasthan. He mentioned to us about the problems of finding skilled labourers to harvest coconuts there”.
Finding an alternative to the labour crunch
The problem then resonated with the inquisitive minds who also associated it with a similar labour crunch of experienced climbers that states like Karnataka, Kerala and others on the Konkan belt face. Soon, the idea of a remote-controlled device which could climb towering trees and harvest fresh coconuts, took root.
One might have heard about the concept of automated robots that minimalise physical labour intervention in coconut harvesting. Young innovators have earlier created many prototypes along similar lines the efficiency of which have been long debated.
So, how different and durable is this one? This one, as the innovators explain, has three distinct parts - “a base that clamps to the tree, a six axis arm with a rotating cutter on top and a remote that allows one choose the choicest of coconuts to pluck while being comfortably seated on the ground.”
The coconut tree has a very ocular shape, as we go to the top of the tree the circumference of the circular trunk gets smaller, for this reason we included a spring-loaded mechanism. Once you reach your desired height you can halt the machine and by using the six-axis arm and the camera mounted on it you can reach and pick on any coconut to cut it down, says Prathamesh who has his educational background in electric engineering.
Durable, easy to maintain and operate
Designed to not slip off the tree in any season, the device made from aluminum is durable and easy to maintain. The machine can be operated on two available power options, either electric or the petrol engine. It has already been tested under real working conditions on arecanut and coconut trees.
Apart from eliminating the risk of accident and injuries to climbers, Prathamesh elaborates that as a one-time investment on his machine can help farmers solve many problems.
It's very hard to find labour for coconut harvesting these days. Even if you find skilled labour, they have to be hired at costly prices. Moreover, the risk of human life is a constant worry. Our machine is designed in a way that any untrained person with little/no skill can learn to operate it within 10 minutes.
Plans to go automatic
Differentiating their innovation from other existing models in the market, Prathamesh says, "The machines that are currently available in the market are not industrial grade products, they work more along the lines of ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY). And some get stuck at certain points while climbing the tree as they lose traction".
However, Prathamesh and Geet’s coconut harvester is not devoid of any drawbacks. Currently, their electric machine can harvest only up to 10-12 trees on a single charge.
This might mean a farmer with a huge plantation might have to spend considerable time charging the machine before harvesting again, he says adding that they are also keen on designing and shifting to a petrol engine motor.
In the long run, the enterprising youngsters are also planning to make the device fully autonomous using Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Future innovations and way ahead
Prathamesh and Geet’s coconut harvester project was displayed at Maker Mela 2018 in January at Somaiya Vidyavihar in Mumbai. Terming the response as ‘overwhelming’, the two are now working on acquiring patents before they can pitch it before various investors.
When questioned about their future innovation plans, Prathamesh specifies that they are planning on inventing a fleet of farming equipment that can make farming easy.
We are always innovating to make life easy at home but we should also focus on the innovation which can help make work easy in the field, he concludes.