KOCHI: Farmers, especially those engaged in the cultivation of plantains, have incurred a huge loss this season after their crops got destroyed in the strong winds and rain.
The plants, which had begun bearing banana bunches, broke in half leaving the immature fruits unsaleable. But, all this might soon become a thing of the past with a research team from Cusat coming up with an invention that prevents the plantain plants from breaking in strong winds.
The invention, which has been awarded a patent by the National Patent Office, is ready for mass production and the team is on the lookout for manufacturers.
At first sight, the invention called Portable Agriculture Network System (PANS) looks very unassuming and simple, said Dr M B Santhoshkumar, associate professor, Department of Information and Technology, School of Engineering. “However, a lot of research and hard work has gone into the product. We did thorough research and collected data besides speaking to the affected farmers to get a complete picture,” he said.
“Every monsoon season we get to hear about the loss suffered by plantain farmers. Since India is the largest producer of plantains in the world, incurring such huge losses is not viable,” he said. So, the team met up with the officials from the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Kerala to understand the gravity of the situation.
“We wanted to come up with a product that was a complete solution,” said Dr Santhoshkumar. “The problem is a compilation of various factors. So, the team had researchers from different departments like Civil Engineering, Polymer Science and Rubber Technology, Cusat Radar Centre and the Atmospheric Sciences,” he added.
“Dr K S Beena, syndicate member and professor of Civil Engineering, Dr Sunil K Narayanankutty, controller of examinations and professor in Department of Polymer Science and Rubber Technology, Dr K Mohankumar, director, Cusat Radar Centre and UGC BSR faculty fellow at Department of Atmospheric Science, and a few others have contributed greatly to the development of the device,” said the team leader.
What is PANS?
According to Dr Santhoshkumar, PANS consists of several primary supports with concrete bases fitted with vertical GI poles and flexible connecting members made of coir, canvas, banana fibre and nylon. “A broad belt with loops made of nylon or jute is tied around the trunk of the plant. Once the belt is in place, strings made of banana fibre or coir is threaded through the loops and then tied to the vertical GI poles attached to the concrete bases,” he said.
“PANS can protect plantain plants from the wind blowing at a velocity of more than 60 km per hour. Not only storms, but other debilitating factors affecting the weak trunk of plantain plants can also be kept at bay,” he said.
According to the team, PANS is a low-cost option with components like the belt needing no replacement for at least five years. “The price of one unit comprising the belt, concrete base with GI poles and the strings is around `200,” he said.