Are you nuts? How a ‘tree scooter’ completed an Indian farmer’s life
Friends thought he was mad, but Ganapathi Bhat’s invention has made his and others’ lives a whole lot easier
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 nuts in the coastal town of Mangaluru in Karnataka state and has to regularly scale heights of up to 21m to harvest his crop.
Too old to climb and unable to find cheap labour, 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 nuts, 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 said at his lush 18-acre farm.
Starting in 2014, he said he spent about $52,824 (about R811,000) on research and development. After four years, he and his engineer partner had a working prototype.
Bhat said he has sold more than 300 “tree scooters”, which cost $819.02 (about R12,600) 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,” he said. “I feel that my life is complete now.”