Discarding a routine work and trying to do something new is not everybody's forte.

Many employed persons who consider their job monotonous or boring, would like a change. But how many are able to give up their jobs and a steady income and try something else?

“A farmer, Mr. Mansukhbhai Patel's personal experience may serve as an example and encouragement for many. A tenth standard school dropout, Mr. Patel, born in a poor farmer family, is credited for inventing an updated cotton stripper machine, that revolutionized cotton cultivation in Gujarat,” says Prof Anil Gupta, Vice Chairman, National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad.

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Several cotton mills in the region use the machine now. The machine brought down the cost of cotton stripping from Rs.1 per kg to Rs. 1 for 20 kg, thereby generating good income for farmers and also improving the milling quality.

The idea of mechanized stripping of rainfed cotton (V:797 variety) from shells came to him during one of his frequent visits to his village.

“Hailing from a farming family which also grew cotton in a small way, I was familiar with the recurring expense and production delays,” Mr. Patel says.

The variety does not require much water and grows well in harsh and dry climate.

While most hybrid varieties bear ball cotton, which need to be manually picked from the plant, the indigenous variety bears pods that cannot be opened easily.

The pods must be picked, and manually cracked open to extract the ball.

Being a tedious and cumbersome procedure, mostly women and children engage in it.

During the harvesting season, instead of attending schools several children pluck the balls from the field as day labourers.

Dedicated effort

Mr. Patel kept mulling over the idea for several months and became convinced that he could develop a machine to strip the cotton lint from partially opened bolls.

It took two years of dedicated efforts to come out with the first model. Mr. Patel designed, fabricated and demonstrated his first full-fledged cotton-stripping machine in 1994.

The demonstration in his village convinced everyone that mechanizing the tedious process is possible.

At the end of a meeting organised after the demonstration of the machine, he found himself flooded with confirmed orders for as many as 50 machines. This, despite the performance not being as good as Mr. Patel wanted it to be.

“The actual supply of machines was easy. Although the customers had been quite impressed at the time of demonstration, the performance under actual working conditions did not satisfy users. All the machines were returned with complaints.

“It was eventually found that the malfunction was due to a trivial technical problem. I had to refund the money received and suffered a severe financial setback,” says Mr. Patel.

More changes

But he did not give up. He made more changes to the machine over a period of three more years.

Last year, he introduced dust collectors and fitted an automatic feeding system to the machine.

He also provided wheel-brackets and castors to make the machine portable. Patents have been granted in India and U.S. for this machine.

“Rural people must try to be innovative. Like Mr. Patel, there are several innovative farmers who, with a little imagination and hours of labour, are trying to make back breaking work easier for their ilk,” says Prof. Gupta.

Value addition

Mansukhbhai's stripping machine innovation was scouted by SRISTI. Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN - West) that took up the task of value addition.

Mr. Mansukhbhai could secure a Rs 5,80,000 under Technopreneur Promotion Program (TePP). Gian also arranged for technical assistance from National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.

For more details contact Mr. Mansukhbhai Patel , Chetak Industries, 113, GIDC Industrial Estate, Hansalpur, Viramgam, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Mobile: 9824089035, Ph: 02715-235108.