How often have you heard the phrase — Necessity is the mother of invention? And how often do you find it to be true? Gitaram Kadam, a mechanical engineer in Nhavare village in Pune, Maharashtra is an epitome of this philosophy. His urge to invent came from being in a state of constant helplessness.
Gitaram’s village was once plagued with load shedding and unpredictable power cuts. The promised electricity supply by the power utility company was 11 pm to 7 am, which made it nearly impossible to conduct any agricultural activity in the village with a population of 7,500.
But this engineer tells The Better India that he took it upon himself to change the sorry state of affairs of the village farmers.
The farmers’ plight
Gitaram had bought a 12-acre land in the village in 2016 with the hope of practising organic farming. However, the poor electrical supply crushed his dreams of growing fresh produce and selling it in the market.
“Despite the promise of eight hours of electricity, only one phase of supply worked at 230 Volts while the other phase was limited to 105 Volts. Our appliances, like motor pumps among others, used to fuse, damaging the equipment,” says the 49-year-old, who worked as a project head with a US-based windmill manufacturing company.
Explaining his turmoil, the farmer says, “How can a farmer stay awake at night and do farming? When discussed with farmers in the area, they admitted to facing the same issues. Moreover, many elderly farmers suffer from health issues and there are only a few youngsters [to do the heavy lifting] as most have migrated to the city in search of jobs.”
With a scarcity of water, the farmers were unable to manage crops. “If coriander, fenugreek or onions are planted they spoil with no water or untimely rains,” Gitaram says.
Harnessing clean energy
It was then that Gitaram decided to not rely on the power utility department to improve the electricity supply but to use his engineering skills and 26 years of experience in the field to bring about an innovative solution.
“I decided to build a windmill and set up a solar power plant, too. I learned that the winds were good between May and October, while in the remaining months the sunlight was strong,” the engineer says, who decided to harness the power of two renewable energy sources and synchronise them for the larger benefit.
“I have an American friend, George, who shared technical knowledge, and we worked together to source the building material. We bought magnets, copper and some steel parts, while we procured the wood and other components from the scrap market,” he says. The specialist also roped in expertise from engineering colleges. “We sourced 22 students pursuing mechanical and electrical engineering for the task. The students from Aurangabad, Pune, Beed and Kolhapur underwent training for 10 days before working on the project. About a week later, the windmill of 3 kW power at the cost of Rs 3.5 lakh was ready,” he tells The Better India.
Gitaram adds that a couple of weeks later he set up a solar power plant of 2 kW by spending Rs 2.5 lakh. He explains, “The unique aspect of the plant is that there is no battery involved to store the energy. The windmill and solar plant work directly to deliver Alternate Current (AC) which directly powers appliances.”
After synchronising the two technologies to perfection, Gitaram is now a satisfied independent farmer. He shares that he now grows various fruits and vegetables to be processed and sold in the market for a better price.
The engineer-cum-farmer says that harnessing the natural energy was the only feasible solution for him. Explaining his decision, he says, “Running the diesel generators would cause heavy pollution and turn expensive for the pocket. The smoke and the noise are unbearable.” Gitaram adds, “India is blessed, with surplus wind and solar energy. Why not harness the power to our needs? Such initiatives will also help us fight climate change. Every farmer should resort to a renewable source of energy.”
Since then Gitaram has built six windmills for the farmers in the area. “We are currently testing them for their efficiency,” he says, adding that plans are now underway to seek government subsidies for the use of technology for these farmers.
The engineer, who quit his job in December 2020 for a fresh start, says, “I quit my job intending to create rural entrepreneurs. I grow garlic, ginger, fenugreek, turmeric, coriander and Moringa. These vegetables are dried and sold in the market for added value.”
But along with making an entire village self-reliant on reusable energy, he has also empowered 450 women in the village to grow and dry vegetables like himself. “They conduct the primary process of drying the vegetables, up to 70 per cent as required by the companies, and earn 40 per cent more profits by selling them,” he adds.
“This way, I make the farmers self-reliant. I want farmers to adopt new methods of farming and earn more by processing and value-adding their produce. Such farmers can set an example for others to follow and succeed in life,” he adds.