Neha Bhatt has made an automatic agri sprayer that can protect areca nut farmers, including her grandfather, from the damage caused by using a fungicide spray Areca nut (betel nut) or supari is one of the most popular commercial crops, especially in the Western Ghats of India. However, areca nut growers face a number of issues that are often overlooked. Since childhood, Neha Bhatt had seen the issues her grandfather—an areca nut farmer—faced. “They face eye, skin and breathing issues while spraying Bordo Mixture [a combination of copper sulfate, lime and water—a fungicide and bactericide] to remove fungus and prevent the rotting of areca nut crops,” explains the 15-year-old who made it a mission to find a way to reduce human intervention while spraying the mixture. But what makes her sprayer different? She explains, “We have modified a traditional gator pump, making it more efficient by adding three sprayer outlets instead of just one. It is also completely automatic, since we have added sensors. It runs on a lithium ion battery which can be charged and lasts for five hours.” The whole kit has been mounted on one single cart, making it easier for farmers to move around in the farms. Though she started thinking along these lines when she was 13, it was only two years later that she finally managed to have the agri sprayer ready, when she joined Shell’s NXplorers programme, a global science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) education programme, with an aim to explore issues and design solutions to solve real-life problems around food-water-energy. “I understood the problem well, but I wasn’t sure how to come up with a solution. During the NXplorers workshop, I learnt about every procedure that I needed for the agri sprayer in detail,” she says. The programme is being rolled out across four states and aims to reach 3,000 schools and 260,000 students between the ages of 14 and 19 in the next three years in India. The 10th grader is still working on some modifications to make the agri sprayer even more efficient, compact and sustainable. “I’m hoping that eventually the device can be run entirely on solar energy,” she says, adding, “One day, I want every areca nut farmer in India to use my agri sprayer.”
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(This story appears in the 18 December, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)