INSIDE A workshop in Jasdan town of Rajkot district, an imposing-looking machine stands out amid rusting iron girders, steel sheets, metal frames and rows of conventional automated threshing machines. The machine, developed by a retired airman of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and his son, is much like a combined harvester. It is all set to roll out of the workshop for an extensive trial this Kharif harvesting season.
Jasdan, around 60 km east of Rajkot city, known for threshing machine industry, is home to around 70 units that manufacture threshers and allied equipment. Bharat Engineering Works, a proprietorship firm owned by Gordhanbhai Patel and his son Ajay, is one of them. The father-son duo has developed a mobile groundnut thresher (MGT), which functions like a combined groundnut harvester.
A conventional groundnut thresher is a stationary unit. Drum of its cutter opens upward at an elevation of average 10 feet. Due to its height, persons feeding harvested groundnut into the cutter have to stand on a platform at a height of five feet, which doubles the labour involved. At least six labourers are required for threshing operation by such tractor-powered thrashers.
The MGT can be plied between two rows of bunches of uprooted groundnut in a field. A lower feeder bucket means labourers can walk along on either side of the machine and throw bunches into the bucket from where a conveyor belt would take them to the cutter drum. The MGT stores threshed groundnut in a storage tank mounted on top of the cutter drum. A cage-like structure arrests and stores dry foliage, a premium fodder, blown out by the cutter. A hydraulic jack turns the tank on its side for unloading threshed groundnut directly in a tractor trolley or other vehicle. The foliage can be unloaded in the form of a pile on the ground by unlocking its cage-like tank.
“The biggest advantage of MGT is that it allows faster threshing with minimal labour. I wanted to help farmers save their groundnut from unseasonal rain, which often falls when the crop is in the field for sun-drying. Unlike the conventional thresher, the MGT can thresh with crop having high moisture content,” says 72-year-old Gordhanbhai, adding the MGT is fruition of eight years of research.
Son of a farmer who was working in the estate of the royal family of erstwhile princely state of Jasdan, Gordhanbhai joined the IAF in 1968 as an airman. He was recruited in the technical trade and completed training equivalent to a diploma in mechanical engineering. He also took an active part in the 1971 India-Pakistan war by rendering services from an arms depot in Madhya Pradesh.
It was during his airman days that Gordhanbhai developed interest in agricultural machinery. “While I was posted in Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh, I would often pass by the Southern Region Farm Machinary Training and Testing Institute (FMTTI). Being the son of a farmer, the equipment and machinery there fired my curiosity and I decided to do something for farmers,” he says.
After his grandfather’s death, Gordhanbhai took voluntary retirement from IAF in 1974 to look after the estate of the royal family. Two years after returning to Jasdan, he set up his workshop and started working on developing mechanised threshers and thus becoming among founding members of the modern threshing industry of Jasdan. He has developed a combined groundnut harvester as well as a wet groundnut thresher.
“Gujarat, the largest grower and producer of groundnut in India, is our focus market… In conventional threshers, farmers lose some amount of foliage, which is finely ground and cannot be collected from the field. The MGT addresses this issue,” says Gordhanbhai, adding the storage tank has a capacity of three tonnes.
He also got the design of the MGT registered with the Patent Office of the Central government in October 2019 and is ready to roll the prototype out of his workshop for trials this kharif harvesting season.
A conventional thresher costs around Rs 1 lakh, while the MGT, Gordhanbhai says, will cost between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 7 lakh. “Big farmers and cooperative societies who are also in the business of providing rental services are our target market,” he adds.
“The added advantage of MGT is that other than paddy, it can thresh any other crop, including wheat, pearl millet, pulses, etc., with very minor adjustments in its hopper that can be done by farmers themselves,” says 41-year-old Ajay.
The launch of the machine comes at a time when farmers of Gujarat has sown groundnut in a record 19.70 lakh hectare this Kharif season so far.