At a time when the start–up culture is dominated by e–Commerce and other technology based players, we have Athul and team, alumni of Government Engineering College, Thrissur whose innovation benefits the most important yet declining industry of India – the agriculture!
Every business idea is inspired from an experience. In case of Athul, it was a personal one. Once while working on their paddy field, Athul’s father got bitten by a snake. This left him thinking on the dangers lurking during farming. On another occasion, when Athul was working on the field, he realised the difficulty and drudgery involved in the process of spraying fertilisers especially on a hot and humid day. He made a casual remark to his dad on getting the work done with the help of a helicopter – and this is where the idea sparked!
Being a student of Production Engineering, Athul decided to share this idea with a few of his creative friends from his class. And thus formed the team of four young enterprising individuals – Athul Shibu, Job V.J., Sarath Marson and Arjun Ajay.
The ideation stage was followed with a market study at a paddy field near their college in Thrissur district of Kerala. Their research revealed that paddy cultivation in Kerala has been decreasing year after year with growing dependency on other states to fulfil their domestic needs.
That is how they started working towards developing Agri–Copter – a way to mechanise and if possible automate the entire laborious process involved in agriculture. Their innovation was not just profit oriented, but they also had kept the economical, social and environmental aspects in mind.
Your business should deal with what you have experienced in your life. The need for your business should have been felt by you. Unless you feel the need, you won’t find the right solution.
– Athul K. Shibu
They conducted a survey at a nearby agricultural land to investigate the factors contributing to this and arrived at the following results:
(a) The money spent in hiring manual labourers for operations of spraying fertilizers, pesticides, etc. on a 150-acre land came around INR 2, 25, 000
(b) Rural youngsters have started to choose alternative careers as they consider agriculture as a low-paying career option.
(c) Dangers associated with agriculture, like snake bites, contraction of diseases like Leptospirosis were also on a rise.
Agri-Copter – their innovation:
(i) The Agri-copter starts its spraying mechanism and sprays the payload evenly over the field. A real-life model is expected to carry a payload of 10kg. Once the payload is finished, it can be flown back and refilled. It comes with a solar charging option too so that it can charge its batteries while in operation.
(ii) The advantage of Agri–copter over the conventional methods of applying is that a required density offertiliser can be ensured over different locations of the field. Also the hazardous chemicals can be handled safely by the Agri-copter as human interference is happening only while loading the payload.
(iii) The most important part is that, a farmer need not buy the equipment. He/she can rent it from a supplier. Or, it can be such that a group of farmers in the same area can collectively buy one and share among themselves.
The team is currently in their nascent stage of establishing a firm of their own. Till date their promotional activities have been limited to participation in various technical festivals and also some international exhibitions conducted throughout India. The experience they had in participating in such events has boosted their confidence about the acceptance of their product. They have realised that the common farmer was in need of their product at the earliest.
Like any other start-up, this team too have had their shares of struggle in setting up their entrepreneurship – the biggest difficulty being monetary investment for obtaining the patent for Agri-Copter. Although the department of Production Engineering at their college have been of immense support, they feel the Entrepreneurship atmosphere as such could be more developed so that the students would get necessary support from beyond the colleges.
Recently our President, Pranab Mukherjee, highlighted that the quality of Indian colleges can be improved by focusing on research and innovation based education. Athul feels that the amount of risk involved in Entrepreneurship is huge and cannot be borne by the students. He feels every college should have industrial partners who are interested in nurturing entrepreneurial ideas of their students and pulling up them to the mainstream.
At a stage where organic farming is gaining the interest of many people, innovations like Agri–Copter should be encouraged and brought to the limelight with the right guidance and support. Let’s hope that this young team gets the recognition they deserve lest they be one of those many unsung entrepreneurs India have.
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