Innovated by a simple farmer, the unique sprinkler head conserves water by up to 50%
Indian agriculture is always at the mercy of the rain gods. It happens very often that when one part of the country reels under a chronic drought, the other is flooded to the brim.
The ultimate loser in both cases is the poor farmer. In an effort to bring succor to the farming community, one man in a remote corner of Belgaum district of Karnataka has innovated a sprinkler head called Varsha, the rain gun. Anna Saheb originally named his innovation Chandraprabhu rain gun, a cost-effective offshoot of the rain gun technology that brings down water consumption by up to 50%. It also reduces irrigation time by 40-50% and power requirement by a corresponding amount. Varsha has received wide-ranging recognition during several agri-exhibitions, and has been well received by farmers. It also happens to be part of the first portfolio funded by the Aavishkar India Micro Venture Capital Fund (AIMVCF).
Varsha was an invention mothered by the necessity of adequate irrigation in Anna Saheb’s sugarcane fields. A former betel nut and tobacco farmer, he found the existing sprinkler irrigation system wasteful and inadequate for his sugarcane crop. Pop went the weasel, and out came a new sprinkler head, one that had an assortment of nozzles of different sizes to discharge water at different speeds and at different ranges. This was Varsha, the rain gun, which turned out to be a tremendous improvement on the existing sprinkler system. Anna Saheb used it in his fields and slowly the word spread, with more and more farmers approaching him for optimizing their irrigation systems.
What is Varsha?
Varsha, the rain gun, is a sprinkler head that provides water to fields much in the form of artificial rain. The rain gun technology is a form of micro-irrigation that aims at reducing wastage of water during irrigation. Traditional forms of irrigation lead to a loss of water ranging from 40-60% through evaporation, seepage or general wastage. Micro-irrigation technologies, such as the rain gun, seek to bring down losses borne on account of these factors. The current edition of Varsha, a subset of rain gun technology, is a further improvement on existing technologies, both in terms of costs and efficiency.
The rain gun has several nozzles of varying sizes to discharge water and a locking system for part circle irrigation. Although it had been specially refined by Anna Saheb to suit the requirements of his sugarcane crop, it can be used for irrigating other crops also. Advantages of using it ranges from saving water to getting rid of pests to preserving, and even increasing, soil fertility. The nozzles dispense water at volumetric flow rates of up to 500 liters a minute, to distances up to 90 feet. In one-and-a-half hours, it can irrigate land up to an acre. It also helps in getting rid of pests and in nitrogen-fixation of soil. Thus, it’s no wonder that empirical evidence shows increased yields of up to 10% in two to three years from using Varsha.
Varsha won huge acceptance amongst the local farmers. The Honey Bee Network, in 2000, awarded it with the Third Best Grassroots Innovation Award.
The bottlenecks in the path to commercialization of this product were lack of awareness and sophistication.
Anna Saheb was not keen on commercializing his innovation when he was discovered by the Rural Innovations Network (RIN). RIN is an NGO that identifies, supports and propagates rural innovations. Paul Basil, the CEO of RIN in a write-up about Varsha said, “At the Rural Innovations Network, we saw the potential of Varsha, as it could not only play a key role in the irrigation sector with the water savings it offered, but also make a crucial difference to the cane economy. We received firsthand confirmation of the potential when we exhibited the rain gun at leading exhibitions such as Kisan 2001, Agri Index 2001, and Krishi India 2002 in Bangalore, Coimbatore, Trichy and other places.”
After careful review of the product, RIN offered to incubate the product for mass production and marketing. For technology transfer, Servals Automation entered into a contract with Anna Saheb, wherein he agreed to provide them the license to mass produce and market the product. RIN also scouted for venture investment for the same, pulling in investment from AIMVCF for a period of five years, wherein they seek to manufacture and market at least 3,500 rain guns.
The product was first test-marketed in Tamil Nadu, which saw good response coming in. Subsequent to acquiring the license for production, Servals made some technological improvement in the product in collaboration with IIT Chennai. With their constant efforts, Varsha is gradually changing the landscape of water conservation in irrigation.
written by D.S.Prabu, November 11, 2010
written by M.M.Farook, July 22, 2009
written by karim Baruti, March 14, 2009
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