SELCO, in 2010 had ventured into agrimachines keeping in focus the small scale farmers. SELCO Labs has come up with thresher, dehusker and drier prototypes. Since we are more into last-mile innovations, we make sure our prototypes goes through rigorous tests on farmers' fields and get their feedback on the machines. One year ago we had imported a paddy transplanter for small scale farmers. We have been testing this on the Indian terrain. As we put in our resources and time into these tests we have gained insights into how farmers think and what exactly are the issues with the testing of the machine.
Sandeep, Field Coordinator at SELCO Labs who arranges the tests of the machines shares about his on-field experience during the testing of the machines - " For example, when we go for testing of the transplanter the farmers are excited about the machine. Before we reach the field they would have already put a high expectation on the machine because obviuosly it's a machine and it is suppose to be faster and reduce the number of labourers. As we approach the date of testing, the farmers are told about the requirement for testing. We inform them to keep the paddy seedlings ready for the transplanter testing. As we test the machine the farmer realizes that labourers are required to remove the seedling even though the machine has mechanized the process of transplanting. Moreover when a farmer brings a machine for testing, there is a fear that labourers will shun him. The labourers might turn against him. From the labourers perspective this machine has reduced their income. They are needed only for plucking the seedlings but not for translanting. Paddy growing is so intricate, each step is dependent on the previous step. Labourers are needed for plucking the seedlings, all the transplanter machine has done is reduce the labour in a small part of transplanting process. I can conclude that all these machines are not really reducing the labour but reducing the energy spent by a labour on the farming process."
He continues with a sigh, " What is the profit of reducing the energy spent per labour on farming ? Consider the thresher, it is obvious for the farmer to expect the speed of the threshing by the machine to be greater than the manual threshing. But during our tests we have found out that the speed is the same, though the machine has reduced the number of labourers and also the energy spent per labourer on threshing. Will the farmer invest if the speed is the same ? Certainly not. Moreover as the testing proceeds in the farmer's field, he does various comparisons and calculations in his mind and concludes that the machine is not buyable, so he becomes impatient and thinks he is lossing the man hours that would have been put into use if the testing was not happening. The farmer comes to a conclusion that testing is a waste of time. So when we approach the same farmer for testing the new prototype of the machine, the farmer is reluctant to spend his time and resources on testing the machine." These are the problems that we face as we test the machines. The engineers need on field experience and make testing a phenomena that farmer understands, believes in and is ready to contribute for the same.