I read with sheer delight this piece of news from Kerala, the coconut country. The state’s industries minister Elamaram Kareem has gone public with the urgency to fulfill a long-standing need of his people –- a state-of-the-art coconut plucking machine! The Kerala government has announced an award of one million rupees for anyone who comes up with a commercially viable coconut plucking machine.
For those of us from coastal states, the sight of a loincloth-clad coconut plucker expertly scaling the tall tree is common. But apparently, there’s a dearth of such skilled manpower across the coastal state, where coconuts are ripe for the picking every 45 days. My colleague Jacob Thomas, from God’s own country, tells me that earlier the climbers used to charge three rupees to climb up once and bring back the bounty. Blame the inflation for this, but today’s coconut pluckers would settle for nothing less than twenty five rupees per climb!
Earlier the government tried to meet this acute shortage of tree climbers and farmhands in the state by setting up a training school for coconut-plucking and tree climbing. In Kerala, a large large number of coconut-pluckers are actually from the coastal state of West Bengal or from Bihar. The state has over 16 crore coconut trees while most villages have only one or two climbers, grossly insufficient during harvest time. However, the plan to create a pool of trained agricultural workers does seem to have clicked. Some experiments with ad-hoc machines have also not yielded much result.
So the only way forward is innovation! It is coincidental that Raghunath Anant Mashelkar wrote on Nature India recently why innovation has to be at the forefront for a country with such peculiar needs — the need for a national innovation ecosystem.
I will be happy to hear such need-based innovation stories from all corners of this huge country. Have you heard of an innovation that has changed the lives of the people around you?