Hasmukh R Patil has assembled a solar-powered tractor that will help millions of farmers bring down their cost of cultivation, and reduce dependence on expensive fossil fuels.
Necessity is the mother of all innovation – most of us learnt this in school, and there are examples aplenty to vouch for this. One such example is Hasmukh R Patil.
Call him the Henry Ford of India or call him a farmer out to make his life easy! Like Ford made owning cars affordable in the US in the last century, Hasmukh is on a mission to make tractors - and more importantly their operation - affordable for farmers.
So, who is Hasmukh? Hailing from the small but historical town of Mandal 90 km from Ahmedabad, Hasmukh grows cotton, jeera, bajra, and vegetables by day. After sundown, he moonlights as a mechanic, and with many trials and errors, has assembled a solar-powered tractor.
Using scraps and automobile parts bought from different garages and mechanics, he assembled and reassembled his tractor multiple times until he got it right. Remind you of Ford?
Hasmukh is known in his village as somewhat of a mechanic and loves tinkering with toys and auto parts. “One of my friends approached me to repair his child’s toy. While repairing the toy, I felt that I could do more innovative things for the farmers of my village,” Hasmukh says.
“Being a farmer, I knew the pain of other farmers, especially the cost that goes towards fuel and maintenance of a tractor. I asked myself, ‘why not assemble a solar-powered tractor that would reduce costs for farmers’,” he adds.
Hasmukh assembled four solar-powered tractors before he could get a working prototype. He subsequently assembled three more tractors, and is now testing them on different soils in the state of Gujarat. Hasmukh showcased his solar-powered tractor at the Vibrant Gujarat Startup and Technology Summit 2018.
With diesel prices skyrocketing, solar-powered tractors would mean major cost saving for farmers across India, and hence it was no surprise that Hasmukh’s tractor drew huge crowds to see, understand, and experience the innovation.
The tractor is not Hasmukh’s first tryst with solar power. To fend off wild animals that would feed on crops, he had earlier designed an electric fence that would be powered by solar energy.
The improvised fence was a homespun solution. Fellow villagers soon began to acknowledge and appreciate Hasmukh’s innovative spirit, and would often bring him small projects to fix. This helped boost his confidence and take on the project to build a solar-powered tractor.
In his project, Hasmukh was joined by his friends Kunjan Patel and Saurin Shah. While Kunjan is also a farmer, Saurin owns a fuel outlet in Ahmedabad. Saurin says, “Being a fuel retailer, I exactly knew what Hasmukh and other farmers were going through."
Hasmukh began working on his idea in late 2012. “I sourced scraps and spare parts from different garages and assembled the first makeshift version. But to my dismay, the first four versions didn’t produce the desired results, and I had to sell them back in scrap.”
Over the four versions, Hasmukh had already lost Rs 20 lakh but that did not slow him down thanks to the support of friends and partners. “My friends backed me unconditionally. They had faith in my abilities and kept pushing me, always saying we are near our goal,” he adds.
Registering their startup as Saur In Autosol Energy Private Ltd, the team has applied for a project loan from the Government of Gujarat and has also applied to iCreate for a subsidy.
The International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate) promotes and nurtures entrepreneurs by providing them finance, mentors, and technology. The centre is a joint venture between Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited (GMDC) and Gujarat Entrepreneurship and Venture Promotion Foundation (GEVPF).
The solar-powered tractor’s USP
Apart from regular ploughing work, the multi-utility tractor can be used to clean roads, and even pump water from borewells. It can also be used as an inverter to light up farm sheds.
Kunjan says, “Today, diesel costs about Rs 80 per litre. A farmer on an average uses 40 litres of diesel per tractor per day. It comes to around Rs 3,500 per day, excluding the maintenance cost of the vehicle. But with a solar-powered tractor, costs come down drastically.”
Saur In Autosol Energy’s solar-powered tractors are lighter than diesel tractors, and hence more energy efficient and easy to use and manoeuvre. While a typical diesel tractor weighs more than 2,000 kg, Hasmukh claims his tractor weighs just 800 kg. Hasmukh and his co-founders claim they have no competitors.
The startup has already received a patent for the tractor, and is now planning to set up a factory to manufacture the tractors at an 8-acre plot. It plans to roll out the first tractor in the April-June quarter of 2019, and aims to scale up the number of units produced per month to 125-150 by the end of FY19.