Pune-based Padmakar Kelkar has developed a solar-powered crop irrigator that can be a huge boon for farmers in these times of failing monsoons and 14-hour rural power cuts.
I had no idea what pivot irrigation is, so I looked it up in wikipedia, and to save you the trouble, I’ve copied the relevant paragraph here:
Center-pivot irrigation (sometimes called central pivot irrigation), also called circle irrigation, is a method of crop irrigation in which equipment rotates around a pivot. Central pivot irrigation is a form of overhead (sprinkler) irrigation consisting of several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminium) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle. The outside set of wheels sets the master pace for the rotation (typically once every three days). The inner sets of wheels are mounted at hubs between two segments and use angle sensors to detect when the bend at the joint exceeds a certain threshold, and thus, the wheels should be rotated to keep the segments aligned. Centre pivots are typically less than 500m in length (circle radius) with the most common size being the standard 1/4 mile machine (400 m). To achieve uniform application, centre pivots require a continuously variable emitter flow rate across the radius of the machine. Nozzle sizes are smallest at the inner spans to achieve low flow rates and increase with distance from the pivot point.
MIT’s Technology Review (India Edition) covered this a couple of weeks back (the same article also appeared as a featured innovation in DARE magazine). Kelkar’s technology was one of the featured innovations in the IITB-Alumni Association’s Innovations conference in 2008 that happens every year in Pune. (By the way, Innovations 2010 is happening in a couple of weeks – you should consider attending).
The TechReview article points out the advantages of this irrigator:
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.
Having already spent 20-25 lakhs of his own money in developing the technology, Kelkar is now looking for funding to start commercial production. One of the sources he is considering is the Government of India’s Technopreneurship Promotion Programme (TePP). (PuneTech had covered TePP about an year back.
In his efforts at finding funding, he is being helped by Pune’s Venture Center. You can see all of our coverage of Venture Center’s activities here. Thanks to @kaushikgala for tipping us. Also, you can follow MIT Technology Review’s India Edition here.