Wanted: Genius Coconut Picker in India
The Indian government is offering one million rupees (£12,500) to the person that has the "most innovative idea to pluck coconuts while standing on the ground."
In a country that grows 16 billion coconuts a year, it is almost hard to believe that most of which are handpicked. As the job becoming less and less attractive, it becomes critical to find a new way to harvest coconuts.
Several reasons have led to the coconut-picking labor shortage in Kerala, the most prodigious of the coconut-producing states. One is due to the falling birthrate, and the other is the rising school attendance. Also, as Kerala, for decades been a communist state, gradually breaking its ancient caste system and abolishing the rules on what jobs people are born into, most young men hope to get a white-collar job instead of being a coconut picker.
“Kerala is proud to have broken down caste oppression, but it means young people are just not interested in becoming coconut harvesters these days,” T. Balakrishnan, the principal secretary for industries in Kerala, told The Times. “It’s not a very glamorous job.”
The winning machine must be operated from the ground, Kerala's industries department insists, and must reach 30 metres into Kerala's coconut palms. It also has to be inexpensive to construct and operate, and easy to move around, the government says. Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem said current machines that operate at tree level were not good enough. "We call upon anyone to develop a product that can be used to pluck coconuts standing on the ground."
Coconuts are tremendously important in India for economic reasons, especially in the southern part of the country. While coconut oil can be used to lacquer hair and make soap and the hard shell can be burnt or carved to make curios, coconut's use in food is extensive - flesh added to curries, milk as a popular drink, and sap tapped to make alcoholic toddy. Traditionally, a coconut would be presented in offering to the gods at a Hindu wedding.
The competition will officially open at the end of September and will be running for six months. The government will then help the winner to set up a factory for supplying the winning device.Withsuch a high demand of coconuts in India, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the popularity of of this potential solution.