For the walk and talk part of their studies, the mechanical engineering students of Amal Jyothi College of Engineering in Kottayam, were at the farm owned by a classmate’s uncle. Of the many insights he shared with the prospective engineers was this piece of info on how hard it costs a pepper farmer to harvest. An idea struck the minds of a bunch of them that evolved into a product pepper plucker-cum-separator. It made the innovators — Shalom Philip Thomas, Mohammed Anshad, Nahas Rasheed, Sarath Chandran and Akhil Dev — winners at one of the most sought-after contest for talented brains, the 12th TechTop National Innovation Challenge.
“This is a tiny device mountable on a fruit picker and can be monitored from the ground. We aim to bring the labour cost down and enhance the convenience of the farmers. Labourers, especially women, find it hard to reach the top areas of the stem to pluck raw pepper,” says Shalom. They were guided by their teacher, Sreerag K. throughout.
The device has an aluminium container with a conical drum embedded inside to pluck the berries. A telescopic mechanism adjusts the height from the ground. He claims, this is a first-of-its-kind discovery comprising arrangements for plucking and threshing pepper.
“Pluckers available in the market cost about Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000, with only one function — plucking — and can pluck about 4 to 4.4 kg of berries per hour, whereas our device can collect 5.9 kg an hour. The labour cost for threshing can also be saved. Our pepper plucker-cum-separator costs less than `1,000 apiece if produced on larger scale and the aluminium outer cover can be replaced with plastic,” says Shalom.
The team looks forward to patent the product and then think about the industrial production of the device....