There is a lot of commercial value attached to the Areca nut or which is more commonly known as betel nut. A large swathe of the population across India consumes this nut on a regular basis. It is also used in religious practices. There are many thousands of farmers in Assam, Kerala and Karnataka who depend on betel nut cultivation for their bread and butter.
However, the betel nut farmers are plagued by short supply of fungicides, a woebegone lack of labor, attack on the crops by pests like spindle bugs, mites, and tender nut which make betel nut cultivation an uncertain endeavor. The insects especially wear away at the plants and are the cause for diseases like Koleroga.
Neha Bhatt from Puttur , in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka is a student of class 10. Even at this tender age, she understood the issues faced by betel nut farmers in the region and she tasked herself with coming up with a solution to help the farmers. Each monsoon, the farmers would spray ‘Bordo misture’ composed of lime, copper sulphate and water on the betel nut plants. Neha observed that the farmers were using ages old steel fabricated gator pumps which asked for a high degree of manual engagement. This process was not only labor intensive but it also was inefficient.
Neha spent the last three years in experimenting, conducting research and interacting with the betel nut farmers. After many trial runs, Neha has managed to perfect an automatic agri-sprayer for the farmers. This agri-sprayer is made up of a pressure release valve, Arduino based level detector, as well as an overcharge protector. This combination makes it possible for human engagement to be reduced, and it also gives savings of time and money.
Neha, studying in the 10th standard of Vivekananda English Medium School, bagged the 3rd prize in the CSIR Innovation Award for School Children 2020. As a prize, she received 30000INR and also a certificate from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The turning point for Neha came in June of 2019, where she got a chance to participate in a program called NXplorers. This was a program that looked to equip young people like Neha to solve issues plaguing the society using their practical knowledge. It was during the three day program that Neha thought of helping the betel nut farmers with the invention of the automatic sprayer.
When Neha interacted with the supari farmers, she got to know that more than 97% of the farmers were having a problem to pay labor charges for using the gator pumps. There was a physical element to the spraying, involving pesticide mixing, moving the lever so that pressure could be produced, and then spraying the pesticide on the supari plants, which was exhausting the farmers on a physical level.
Neha spent 6 months at the lab in her school and in the end, developed the automatic agri sprayer which made use of the Archimedes principle. The automatic sprayer is housed on a single wheel cart and is made up of a gearbox, a DC motor, Li-ion batteries, a couple of gator pumps, junction box, a suction and delivery hose, accelerator, connector and a barrel.
After the prototype was completed, Neha approached about 15 supari farmers and asked them to use the new machine so that she could take feedback from them. The farmers used the agri-sprayer and found it to be very easy on the body as well as being highly cost-effective. They were able to save as much as 30 per cent of their labor costs with the new automatic sprayer. Neha ends by saying that she wants her invention to be available to each and every betel nut farmer in the country.
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