Appachan, the innovative farmer from Kerala and his coconut tree climbing device
He foresaw the upcoming crisis and might be then the idea of making the device germinated. He struggled through the idea and suddenly one day, the hope met reality. The device he had created was a gear made of steel or iron, to climb coconut trees. In 2006 his innovation (the gear) received a patent and certified as an Agri Machinery for post harvest by National Innovation Foundation (NIF).
Late Mr M. J. Thomas, also known as Appachan, was a school drop-out and only had done a metal smith course in the name of formal training, where he had learnt to bend steel and also to do some welding. He was a native of Kerala, a state where culture, tradition and commerce are very much related to coconut. In times past, people took tree climbing as a serious profession. But with the passing time the tree climbing profession lost its lustre and a huge shortage of tree climbers occurred. Appachan was conscious of the problem that was going to arise. The hard-working farmer decided to attempt the resolution. He started working on the metal gear.
The situation had become so grave in Kerala (with 16 crore palm trees then) that the authority of the state organized a free training school for the one who was interested to learn about tree climbing. But the initiative took up by the government seemed failing. Thandan, (a caste denoting climbers) who had taken Rs 5 per tree started taking Rs 50. Meanwhile, Appachan’s home-made tree climbing device became ready to use. The device appeared as simple, safe, cost effective and easy to use for any season for climbing coconut and palm trees. It took only 1-2 minutes to climb a 40 metre tree against 4-5 minutes required traditionally.
The gear was so impressive that organizations like the Central Coconut Board (CCB) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) backed National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and decided to take the responsibilities of promotion and marketing.
Appachan used to manufacture the gear in his own workshop named St Mary’s Engineering Works when he was alive. Apart from Indian territory the tree climbing device has been traded to countries like USA, Maldives, Thailand, Australia, Brazil and Mexico.