Developed by a Pune-based engineer, this eco-friendly machine saves energy and time while irrigating large stretches of land. However, lack of funds is hampering its commercial production
When rains failed all of a sudden last year after having started on a promising note in June, the researchers at the National Research Centre for Onion and Garlic in Rajgurunagar went into a tizzy.The soy bean crop that had been planted in 4.5 acres of land at the center was at risk of failure. What came to their rescue was a solar-powered pivot irrigator, developed by Pune-based Padmakar Kelkar, an engineer by profession and an entrepreneur by choice. Kelkar’s innovation saved the entire soy bean crop that was almost on the verge of getting wiped out.
In a country like India where agriculture is heavily dependent on rains, the solar-powered pivot irrigator could go a long way in solving the problems of inclement weather. It can also help increase yield while reducing water consumption. Its solar panels help save electricity and the pivot can be used for various types of crops.
It all started in the year 2000 when Kelkar, who in the early 1970s left a job at the coveted Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) to become an entrepreneur, visited some of his friends in the US. His friends were in the business of importing pivot parts from China for sale in the US. While pondering over the products, Kelkar thought of developing a complete pivot irrigator that would run on solar power. “So the next time I went to the US, I took the solar controller and ran my machine on solar power. When I had completed almost 80-85 percent of the job, it so happened that the US firm changed hands and the project got halted,” says Kelkar.
|Features & Benefits
|Can be operated for eight hours at a stretch everyday. Battery capacity can be increased when needed|
|Optimal water conservation and productivity augmentation|
|The investment cost of the system is less than that of the drip system|
|The operating cost of the pivot system is 25 percent less than that of a sprinkler system|
|Water application can be easily adjusted to meet the soil and crop requirements|
Undeterred by the incident, Kelkar thought the pivot irrigator could work well in Indian conditions; given the unpredictable weather and unforgiving droughts, like the one this year. That’s when Kelkar started working on his dream machine.
|“The cost of manufacturing will go down if we get into volume production. I am also eyeing the export market. There are some enquiries from African nations.”
- Padmakar Kelkar
Features and benefits
The pivot irrigator is a mounted structure with a controller, a special motor, a battery and five solar panels. The machine has a central piviot with number of spans or towers revolving around it. There can be three to seven towers of 90-130 feet long, depending on the size and shape of the farm.
The solar panels charge the battery, and this in turn runs the machine when there is no sun. “We have run the machine 19 hours continuously without solar energy at all,” says Kelkar. The use of solar panels could be a boon for farmers in those states that get ample sunlight but not enough electricity.
Other advantages include water savings of about 30-50 percent over other pivots, zero land erosion, 30-50 percent more yield, higher return on investment, and minimum labor requirements. Compared to the drip irrigation, Kelkar’s pivot is more cost-effective. “Drip irrigation may cost around Rs 35,000 an acre, whereas my machine costs around Rs 45,000 an acre. But the cost in case of drip irrigation includes laying it out in the field every time and taking it out once it gets damaged, and you may have to spend another 15 percent every year. On a long-term basis, the cost of my machine comes out to be much less,” he adds.
Kelkar claims that water application can be easily adjusted to meet the soil and crop requirements. “It also has greater management flexibility than other sprinkler systems. The system can be managed according to the crop requirement either in small frequent doses or in one single application. Some models are computerized and therefore offer additional flexibility and versatility,” he adds.
Kelkar is looking for funds to start commercial production of the machine. He says his machine could find customers in government and corporate houses in the agriculture sector. “Whatever money I had I have already put in. Fortunately for me, my other business was able to sustain my expenditures. I have spent Rs 20-25 lakh for this product,” says Kelkar.
To finance his project, Kelkar is looking for venture funding or raise resources through the Technopreneur Promotion Program (TePP). “The cost of manufacturing will go down if we get into volume production. I am also eyeing the export market. There are some enquiries from African nations,” he adds.
written by K V RAI, April 19, 2010
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