In 2019, India’s capital was enveloped by a thick blanket of smog as the Air Quality Index dropped to ‘severe plus’ category and a public health emergency was declared. Much of the blame is put on farmers who resort to burning the paddy stubble before sowing wheat, resulting in the pollution levels in Delhi to nearly double. To prevent just that, IIT Ropar indigenously developed a ‘cost-effective’ Stubble Removing Machine.
Dr Prabir Sarkar, Associate Professor at IIT Ropar, told InUth,
“The machine is called SRM – Stubble Removing Machine and SCT is Stubble Collecting Trolley. We took about 3 months to develop it. To make the machines, we purchased some parts but most of the things we have made it ourselves. The machine can cut the stubble immediately after the harvest and load it into the trolley.”
One reason why farmers still burn the stubble is due to the high costs of machines. But IIT Ropar says that the SRM machine is cheaper to produce than most options that are currently available.
“If you take baler and other machines, they can cost between Rs 7 lakhs and Rs 20 lakhs. To manufacture this machine, it only cost us around Rs 3 lakh. And if you add the trolley to machine, then the price of the machine is only Around Rs 4-5 lakhs, which is much lower than other existing machines. And this machine, which we’re trying to commercialise, right now it is Rs 3 lakh but the prices are going to lower significantly if we mass manufacture.”
The stubble can either be used to make products re-used in farms
“Immediately after the harvest, the combine can clean the stubble. So they don’t have to wait. And there are many applications of using stubble like making boards which we’ve patented. We have also made bio-oil. The stubble can also be used as a manure, which other teams at IIT Ropar are actually working on. Apart from that, there are some other applications like burning stubble in boilers.”
However, the researchers at IIT Ropar say that their intent is not to profit from selling the machine’s patents.
“We’ve tried to commercialise it by contacting various companies near Ropar and some of the companies have shown interest. We’re not trying to make money. If a government company wants to take it, we can give it for free and if some private company wants to buy the patents, a little bit of charge will be levied. But what we want is that this technology be available in the market.”
In 2018, the World Health Organisation named 9 Indian cities in the world’s 10 most polluted cities and all of them lie across the farm belts of Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar. But using such ‘cost-effective’ and indigenously-developed machines can change that.