Ganapathi Bhat goes to work most mornings carrying a homemade contraption consisting of a small motor, a rudimentary seat and a set of wheels – all expertly combined to help the farmer in southern India swiftly climb tall trees.
The 50-year-old farms areca nut in the coastal town of Mangaluru in India’s southern Karnataka state and has to regularly scale 60- to 70-foot-tall trees to harvest his crop.
Too old to climb, and unable to find cheap labour, Bhat said he took it upon himself to invent a device that would make his life easier.
Bhat calls it a “tree scooter”.
India is the world’s biggest producer of areca nut, with an output of 1.2 million tonnes in 2020/21. Much of this crop is produced along the southern coastal states of Karnataka and Kerala.
“Villagers asked me if I was mad. They had doubts about my invention… whether it would work in the rainy season because the trees would be slippery,” Bhat told Reuters at his lush 18-acre farm.
Starting in 2014, Bhat said he spent around 4 million Indian rupees ($52,824) into research and development. It was four years before he and his engineer partner had a working prototype.
Bhat says he has sold more than 300 of the “tree scooters”, which cost 62,000 Indian rupees ($819.02) each.
On a recent morning, Bhat strapped on a seat-belt, which is hooked to the handle of this contraption. He then revved up the scooter, zooming up an areca nut tree. High above the ground, Bhat quickly inspected the crop before descending at top speed.
“I feel proud that I did something for the people through this invention,” Bhat said. “I feel that my life is complete now.” (Reuters)