Most technological innovations are targeted for the top 10% of the population. You will find this disparity everywhere – every few months a new cell phone hits the market, but how often do you hear anything being designed for farmers upon whom we depend for survival?
Agriculture in India is one of the worst hit sectors with this problem. While it still employs about 50% of our population, its contribution to GDP is significantly low at about 14%. Though there are many reasons for this imbalance, the role of lacking agricultural innovations is something that should hit us hard because India has no dearth of engineers and designers.
Nitin Gupta, a design graduate from CPDM (Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing)IISc Bangalore, has set out to get rid of this problem by founding a design studio – Sickle Innovations, that develops mechanical solutions to help small farmers sustain profitability and to help labourers earn more with less health hazards.
” I come from an agricultural background. I have closely seen the problems faced by farmers and labourers who work in the farms. Farmers are earning lesser profits than they used to. In a bid to increase productivity and hence profits, farmers over-work the labourers. The shortage of labourers worsens their burden.
When we were asked to submit project proposals as part of the IISc curriculum I knew I wanted to work on a semi-automatic solution that increases farm productivity but doesn’t take away the source of livelihood of labourers. I worked for 1.5 years on this century old problem as part of my academic project and designed a Cotton Picking machine with a patented technology. We have conducted trials in the cotton farms and received satisfactory results. We are continuously adding innovations like powering the machine with a wearable solar panel etc, ” says Nitin as he talks passionately about his initiative. Work on developing sugarcane harvester and fruit picking machine is also underway.
His venture is currently supported by IIM-A’s incubation centre, CIIE and has IISc as a partner. Prior to joining IISc and after finishing his mechanical engineering Nitin worked as a scientist at ISRO for three years . Vinay Reddy, also a design graduate from IISC is a core member of the team. They are being backed by a strong team of advisors. They are currently looking for people who are genuinely interested in working for solving agricultural problems irrespective of educational qualifications.
While talking to I See India Nitin shared an interesting aspect of product designing for people at bottom of the pyramid. “Labourers are treated as very low grade personnel. We designed the machine so that it acts as a morale booster for them and they can boast that their work involves operating a machine and is not petty manual labour. In a way they like to think of themselves as a soldier using a tank rather than a labourer picking cotton. “
With such a fascinating insight into the problem and innovative approach, there’s no surprise that their product has been received well and is in an advanced stage of development.
If you are interested in joining the Sickle Innovations team drop in a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org