In May 2020, Nitin Ghule, a farmer from Nashik, Maharashtra, was preparing his agricultural land to cultivate monsoon crops. He planned to grow tomatoes, chillies and marigold, but realised that he had no access to labour to tend to his seven-acre land.
So he decided to spread mulching paper instead. This is a thin sheet made from polyethylene that is used to cover the soil and helps retain moisture, as well as maintain temperatures at the root level for improved microbial activity.
“But the process requires around a dozen labourers and rolls of mulching paper. It will also take 1.5 days to cover one acre of land. The COVID-19 lockdown meant that I could not source labour and taking a risk with a small number of workers was not recommended,” Nitin tells The Better India.
“If the land is not ready on time, it affects sowing and further leads to a late harvest. This, in turn, delays the farm produce before it reaches the market. It also decreases the income, as the demand has reduced by this time,” he explains.
To overcome this problem, the 28-year-old built a mulching paper spreader from scrap material, which does the job at one-third labour and requires half the time.
A small innovation becomes a big hit
Nitin says he tried to use a tractor and other equipment to spread the mulching paper. But the experiment failed and caused the paper to tear in the process.
He then found some spares in his backyard and approached a friend, who owned a workshop, with a prototype design.
“I bought some wheels and joints from a hardware shop and welded the pieces together according to my understanding. Within 15 days, the first design became ready for trials. But it did not work efficiently and needed improvements,” Nitin adds.
Nitin says that he made a device that needed two persons to operate. “I fit blades in the front and rear that spread the soil as the device moved. The blades in the front would spread the soil. The mulching paper would roll out simultaneously over the soil with its forward movement. The blades at the rear would cover the soil and set the paper underneath,” he explains. However, the rear blades did not perform well and needed reworking.
“I had used moulded scrap pieces and realised I needed a new design altogether. After a few iterations, I got it right,” Nitin says.
The device cost him Rs 7,000 to build. “I did all the welding work to save on labour, and incurred some expenditure in purchasing other parts,” he says.
Nitin says his final innovation was cost-effective and became a hit among other farmers.
“Usually, to spread the mulching paper on one acre of land requires 12 labourers, whose wages cost Rs 600 each. With their food expenses, final wages can amount up to Rs 8,000. However, I am offering the device at Rs 10,000, which is a one-time investment and requires only two labourers. The device can be folded and stored in a shed and has no costs apart from maintaining the tyre pressure. Moreover, spreading mulching paper with the device over one acre requires about eight hours, as against 1.5 days required otherwise. It is a win-win situation in all aspects,” he says.
Nitin adds that the machine eliminates the increased dependence on labourers. “If a farmer lives in a joint family or with members who can help him operate the machine, he would not require any external help to handle the machine,” he adds.
Nitin says he created a video and uploaded it on social media platforms, which made his device an instant hit. “Enquiries started pouring in, and I have close to 100 orders for now,” he adds.
He aims to come up with more innovative ideas to make working easier for farmers. “I am glad that I could solve my problems and now can help others in the process too,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu