Indian farmer builds 'tree scooter' to zoom up tall areca palms

Sunil Kataria, Reuters

Posted at Mar 08 2022 10:50 AM

Ganapathi Bhat, 50, starts his home-made contraption named
Ganapathi Bhat, 50, starts his home-made contraption named "tree scooter" to climb up a tree to harvest areca nuts in his farm in Mangaluru in the southern state of Karnataka, India, February 20, 2022. Picture taken February 20, 2022. Sunil Kataria, Reuters

MANGALURU, India - Ganapathi Bhat goes to work most mornings carrying a homemade contraption consisting of a small motor, a rudimentary seat and a set of wheels - all expertly combined to help the farmer in southern India swiftly climb tall trees.

The 50-year-old farms areca nut in the coastal town of Mangaluru in India's southern Karnataka state and has to regularly scale 60- to 70-foot-tall trees to harvest his crop.

Too old to climb, and unable to find cheap labor, Bhat said he took it upon himself to invent a device that would make his life easier.

Bhat calls it a "tree scooter".

India is the world's biggest producer of areca nut, with an output of 1.2 million tons in 2020/21. Much of this crop is produced along the southern coastal states of Karnataka and Kerala.

"Villagers asked me if I was mad. They had doubts about my invention... whether it would work in the rainy season because the trees would be slippery," Bhat told Reuters at his lush 18-acre farm.

Starting in 2014, Bhat said he spent around 4 million Indian rupees ($52,824) into research and development. After four years before, he and his engineer partner had a working prototype.

Bhat says he has sold more than 300 of the "tree scooters", which cost 62,000 Indian rupees ($819.02) each.

On a recent morning, Bhat strapped on a seat-belt, which is hooked to the handle of this contraption. He then revved up the scooter, zooming up a areca nut tree. High above the ground, Bhat quickly inspected the crop before descending at top speed.

"I feel proud that I did something for the people through this invention," Bhat said. "I feel that my life is complete now."

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