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IIT Kharagpur’s Coffee Harvester Innovation Promises to Alleviate Labour Challenges

IIT Kharagpur is developing a mechanized coffee harvester to reduce labour dependence by 50-60%, addressing the challenges of rising labour costs and the need to improve coffee quality in India.

Shivangi Rai
IIT Kharagpur is developing a mechanized coffee harvester, which can reduce labour dependence by about 50-60 per cent. (Image Courtesy- IIT Kharagpur)
IIT Kharagpur is developing a mechanized coffee harvester, which can reduce labour dependence by about 50-60 per cent. (Image Courtesy- IIT Kharagpur)

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is working on a mechanized coffee harvester that could significantly reduce the need for manual labour by 50-60 percent, according to K G Jagadeesha, the CEO and Secretary of the Coffee Board.

He made this announcement during a meeting with members of the United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) in Coonoor.

Jagadeesha explained that this harvesting machine is designed to suit the unique conditions of coffee cultivation in India, particularly in hilly areas where coffee is primarily grown under shade. Historically, mechanizing coffee harvesting in these regions has been a challenging task.

One of the major challenges faced by coffee growers in recent years is the increasing cost of labour and a shortage of workers. Labour expenses constitute a significant portion, around 65 percent, of the overall cost of coffee cultivation.

Reducing these costs and enhancing the value obtained from coffee sales would be beneficial for growers and enable them to earn a decent income from coffee farming.

Jagadeesha encouraged coffee growers to consider adopting mechanization when replacing old coffee bushes over the next five years. This move has the potential to increase yields.

He noted that in an estate, approximately 90 percent of coffee production comes from just 40 percent of the plants, while the remaining 60 percent of older plants (aged 40-50 years) yield less due to being past their prime productive years. Arabica plants typically start to decline after 40 years, and Robusta plants after 50 years.

The Coffee Board has proposed a national replantation policy for the traditional coffee-growing states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, which is currently awaiting approval from the government.

Jagadeesha emphasized the importance of enhancing the quality of Indian coffee and suggested that more time and effort should be invested in this regard.

Regarding building a brand for Indian coffee, he urged the coffee industry to work collectively, stating that it should be a society-driven effort. He encouraged all Indians to promote and appreciate the quality of Indian coffee.

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