The farmers' da Vinci of Karnataka who swears by the Sun
A self-made inventor from a rural background, Girish Badragond's innovations are giving farmers in Karnataka, a fighting chance at making agriculture a winning proposition.
Vijayapura: A self-made inventor from a rural background, Girish Badragond's innovations are giving farmers in Karnataka, a fighting chance at making agriculture a winning proposition. He has designed a number of devices that can help farmers save labour, energy, and money. Compared to conventional farming equipments which are usually huge, expensive, and power-guzzling monsters, Girish creates machines that are handy, convenient, and economically priced. What's more, each one of his inventions runs on solar power. Girish has a simple enough explanation for his inclination towards solar-powered equipment that are handy in size.
"In our country, most of the farmers have very small land holdings ranging from one to two acres. Under the circumstances, it becomes impossible for them to farm their lands with conventional farm equipments, which are huge, costly and consume lot of fuel. Unable to bear the spiralling cost of agriculture, thousands of farmers are giving up farming and going to urban areas to work as daily-wagers. But the fact is that it is possible to earn Rs 8 to 10 lakh income from an acre of land. By creating such low-cost, fuel-efficient, and convenient tools, I want to encourage more people to take up farming. Secondly, in rural areas, power supply is not dependable and it keeps fluctuating. Sunlight is always assured and free," Girish told IANS.
Hailing from a humble, rural background, gave Girish a head-start in terms of understanding the unique challenges that most of India's farming fraternity face in their daily lives. It was this insider knowledge that spurred him to conceptualise and create most of his innovations. One of his first inventions, a low-cost borewell scanner, garnered all-round recognition for him. Selected to the fourth batch of the Innovation Scholars in-residence program, he spent a few days at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2017. The scanner has been of great use in the water-starved region of north Karnataka where farmers spend huge sums of money on borewells which may soon run dry up, when it actually comes to drawing water. The scanner helps guage the actual water reserves that a borewell holds.
"Usually, motors are fitted after the bore unearths water. But most people don't realise that the water gushing out may be fed by either a stagnant source or a regular water source. After the borewell is dug, before the motor is lowered inside the shaft for fitting, the scanner will determine if the water is fed by stagnant source or regular source. If it is stagnant source, it is not advisable to depend upon the borewell for agriculture. The farmer can then dig deeper or look for alternative points to dig a borewell."
Although poverty prevented Girish from continuing his formal education beyond the 10th grade, he was already tinkering with electronic circuits - creating inverters and helping engineering college students with their college projects. A short stint as a temporary worker in the local telephone exchange equipped him with some technical skills. Following a failed start-up project, in 2004, he made his way to the state capital Bengaluru and worked his way up from scratch. Around 2018, he decided to return to his home district, and do what he loved -- invent.
Currently, around 16 of his creations are available in the market. These include a solar-powered tiller with eight functionalities such as sowing, tilling, and grass-cutting. The solar power in this equipment, can also be used as a battery power source. Then there are equipment such as the Bengal gram leaf cutter, which can save 12 persons labour over a 3-acre area, an electronic bird scatterer, and many more pro-farmer devices.
But it is his 'Blind Farming Technology' based device that created the most waves. The system comprises of a digital stick fitted with a sensor to detect various key parameters such as moisture content, nutrition level, and temperature of the soil. An audio system is used to announce the information to the user. The effectiveness of the device was established when a couple of local farmers with blindness issues, successfully grew fruits in an orchard with its help. However, Girish clarifies that the device's utility is not limited to the blind alone but can be of great use to the aged and even for modern-day prospective farmers who are more comfortable with technology in their hands.
It's been a tough journey but Girish is in no mood to give up. He recalls the time when he prepared all the paperwork for availing a loan but the local bank turned down his application at the last moment. Fortunately, the local administration has recognised the potential of his inventions, and is standing up for him.
Speaking to IANS, Vijayapura Deputy Commissioner P. Sunil Kumar said: "I have seen his inventions and they are very useful for small and marginal farmers. I have also spoken to our lead bank manager to help Girish. We will definitely motivate such people."
Meanwhile, for many farmers of Vijayapura district, Girish Bhadragond is turning out to be the difference between hope and despair. Girish wishes that farmers in other parts of Karnataka and rest of the country will use his innovations to make a success of farming.