An innovation that helps farmers to pump out ground water from a depth of 50 to 60 feet and save fuel cost
Mohammad Mehtar Hussain and his younger brother Mushtaq Ahemad are farmers in the Darrang district of Assam.
|Innovators Mohammad Mehtar Hussain and Mushtaq Ahemad with the static model of the windmill|
They own two acres of land, and produce just enough paddy to feed their families. As cultivating paddy is a water-intensive task, drawing out large amounts of groundwater was difficult due to frequent power cuts. Moreover, the alternative of pumping out water using a diesel set was too expensive and hand-pumping required a lot of effort. This set the brothers thinking, and in 2003 they came up with a solution that was a much cheaper and effective alternative. They invented a simple windmill using bamboo and a tin sheet, and attached it to a hand-pump!
The genesis of their invention is interesting, given the fact that the brothers are educated only up to higher secondary level and have no technical background. While looking around for an answer to their problem, their eyes fell on the movement of a sewing machine. They observed how the circular motion of the wheel resulted in the up-and-down movement of the needle. This formed a rough impression of how their solution would work. However, the major problem of how they would generate enough energy to make it function still remained. The solution to this came when one day they were watching kites, and a sudden gust of wind made them soar higher. They concluded that a large wheel, moving by the power of wind, could be attached to the handle of a hand-pump to pump out water continuously. They made their first prototype using bamboo, old tyres, iron, and so on.
How the innovation took shape
The basic model of the windmill consisted of a tower-like structure, made of two parallel bamboo posts. These were connected using an iron shaft, which in turn mounted the blades of the windmill. The wind makes the blades move, thus rotating the shaft. Being connected to the handle of the hand-pump, the rotating motion of the shaft results in the pumping out of water. However, this static model of the windmill has several advantages and disadvantages.
|Innovator: Mohammad Mehtar Hussain and Mushtaq Ahemad|
|Innovation: Windmill-operated tube-well|
|Description: A low-cost windmill for lifting groundwater for irrigation purposes|
|Cost: Rs 6,000 (Static Model) / Rs 40,000 (Improvised Model)|
|Features (Improvised Model) : |
Made of inexpensive, locally available materials, such as bamboo and aluminum sheets, made it much cheaper than traditional windmills. Moreover, the entire unit could be assembled and dismantled in an hour, making it portable. No foundation was required for installation as the bamboo poles could be erected by digging holes in the ground. On the flip side, as the blades were static, they rotate only when facing the direction of the wind. Second, being light in weight, it did not withstand high-velocity wind. Third, there was no brake system in this design—it has to be stopped by inserting a wooden pole between the blades. Fourth, compared to traditional windmills made from sturdy materials, bamboo has a shorter life. This limited its use in all seasons, especially during the rains and the winter.
|The improvised model|
The improvisation phase
As the popularity of the windmill slowly spread, another innovator, Karunakanth Nath, whose innovation was already being supported by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) North East, introduced it to the organization. The NIF awarded it a cash prize and a certificate from former President Abdul Kalam. Says Mushtaq “That was the proudest moment of my life.”
The NIF supported the innovation through its offshoot Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN) by providing funds. It started working on the defects of the windmill. Several were installed in IIT-Guwahati for technical analysis. At around the same time, GIAN West installed a prototype of the windmill in Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat for salt farming on an experimental basis. India, with an average annual salt production of 157 lakh tonnes, is the third largest salt producer in the world. However, according to GIAN’s estimates, for producing 1,000 tonnes of salt, a salt farmer has to spend approximately Rs 1 lakh, of which nearly Rs 60,000 is spent on fuel for diesel sets for pumping out saline water. According to Mushtaq, “The response that we received was very positive. Our windmill proved to be cheaper as well as effective.”
The improved model
After some trials, several structural defects were identified, and the NIF–GIAN team worked on improvising the model to make it commercially viable. The result was a multidirectional windmill. This model consists of a tower-like structure, turbine blades with a tail, and a crank mechanism for converting the rotation of the blades into reciprocating motion. The aluminum blades have been replaced by lightweight fiber-reinforced plastic and the bamboo poles by steel for greater effectiveness. Besides this, in order to protect the windmill from high-velocity winds and for easy installation, a tilting mechanism has been added. This enables the windmill to be tilted down during high-speed wind.
The water discharge capacity of this model is approximately 1,500 to 1,600 liters/hour at a wind speed of 8 to 10 km/hr, if the water level is at 50 to 60 feet. If the wind speed is around 12 km/hr, the water discharge capacity is about 2,500 litres/hr.
|Multi-directional Windmill||Conventional Windmills|
|Low height - 15 ft||Height - 35 ft|
|Simple crank mechanism (does not require major maintence)||Gear mechanism (requires high maintence)|
|Easy to assemble and dismantle||Difficult to shift once erected|
|Low initial investment||High initial investment|
Current status and cost
A provisional patent has been filed for the improvised windmill model. The innovator has already sold 30 to 35 units of the static model, which is priced at Rs 6,000. On the other hand, the improvised version will carry a price tag of approximately Rs 40,000. When asked why the price of this model is more than six times the original, Mahesh Patel, Chief Innovation Manager of GIAN, explained, “We have made the windmill multi-directional. We have used advanced good-quality bearings and iron material, thereby increasing its overall life to a minimum of 10 years. We are currently manufacturing it with the help of a local fabricator.” The innovators are currently on the lookout for technology partners for the improvised model.
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