Agriculture is often underestimated. Although we take for granted the massive tractors and harvesters of the modern era, there are still some fields where mechanization and its efficiency are much more difficult to take advantage of. For example, in India, the areca nut – known colloquially as betel nut – grows on tall areca palm trees that normally have to be climbed by hand to harvest the seed. Ganapathi Bhat, a farmer with his own areca nut farm in Mangalaru, India, invented what I can only describe as an “engineering” to make the process more efficient.
The device, shown working in this video from the Turkish news agency TRT World, uses what appears to be a small industrial engine similar to a chainsaw or scooter, connected to a set of wheels that hold the trees together. A handlebar-mounted throttle controls descent and ascent speed, and the “driver” rides in a small bicycle seat (complete with seat belt, which is a nice concession to the heights at play). The scooter doesn't have a traditional zero to sixty speed, of course, but Bhat claims it can do 0-60 feet. vertically in about five seconds.
Areca nut is harvested mainly in India, with almost one million tons collected annually in the country. The trees themselves are difficult to climb as they can grow to over 60 feet tall, but they have an average trunk diameter of 4 to 6 inches, which is even harder to climb in heavy rains when the trunks are wet. Bhat said in an interview that “the villagers asked me if I was crazy. They had doubts about my invention… if it would work in the rainy season because the trees would be slippery”, but it seems to work. Bhat has invested over US$ 50,000 in the project, which he started when he found himself unable to climb the trees on his 18-acre farm as he aged. The farmer saw an approximately threefold increase in harvesting efficiency using the machine versus without it.
Bhat, for his part, seems proud of the device. “I feel like my life is complete now” was his straightforward line in an interview, although he has apparently already started a second tree climber aimed at the wider trunks of coconut trees. Regardless of your future projects, it's always fascinating to see homemade projects making people's lives easier.
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