Mr. Achar, a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, said that though areca cultivation was a major agriculture in the district, none has been able to invent a device to scale tall areca trees for spraying and harvesting purposes.
Opting for mechanisation in Dakshina Kannada has become inevitable for farmers as they are dependent on workers, unlike earlier days where workers were dependent on farmers. Moreover, there has been shortage in supply of workers, said Manchi Srinivasa Achar, president, All India Areca Growers’ Association, based in Puttur.
Mr. Achar, a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, said that though areca cultivation was a major agriculture in the district, none has been able to invent a device to scale tall areca trees for spraying and harvesting purposes. Farmers were looking for such a device as there was shortage of skilled workers to manually scale the palm trees.
He said that around 15 years ago, the association had requested Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, to develop a scaling device for areca farmers. A group of farmers from the district had visited the university to make them understand the requirement of farmers. Scientists from the university then came down to the district and visited areca plantations to know the requirement of farmers. Although a team of scientists began a project on developing a scaling device, the project was abandoned for various reasons.
Ramesh Kaintaje, a farmer, said some agriculture equipment, though not fully efficient, such as areca peeling machine, weed remover, and power spraying pump, had been manufactured now. But their basic models had been designed by various farmers and not by researchers in agriculture universities and research and development institutes.
He said that agriculture universities and other agriculture research institutes in the State had not bothered to develop practically viable agriculture equipment which could be used by farmers with small landholdings in Dakshina Kannada for various purposes.
Mr. Kaintaje, a member of a committee which revised the production cost of areca for the Government one year ago, said the district had many engineering colleges. Some of them claimed that they had a research and development wing. “What were they doing all these years? Have they been able to design any machine which was worth mentioning and practically usable by farmers in Dakshina Kannada?” Mr. Kaintage questioned.
Mr. Achar and Mr. Kaintaje said that although the district had uneven terrain and small landholdings, machines in agriculture could be used.
A. Padmaiah Naik, former Joint Director of Agriculture, Dakshina Kannada, said that research and development wings in institutes should focus on designing small machines specifically suitable for small holdings, which could be easily handled by individual farmers and transported easily. He said that although there was a machine for paddy transplantation and harvesting, small version of the machine would help many small farmers who were in large numbers in the district.
Mr. Naik agreed that mechanisation of agriculture was possible in Dakshina Kannada.
Mr. Achar, who is the Editor of Adike Pathrike, a monthly, said there was a need to set up areca mills in the district on the lines of paddy mills to face labour problem. Farmers could transport harvested raw areca to such mills, dry it using modern driers, peel it there and sell it directly from mills or stock them at their homes. It would reduce labour requirement considerably, he said.