Nurturing Agri Innovation through Sahaj's Grading Machine Challenge

Sustainable agriculture
Agri mechanisation is being recently realised by policy makers and planners as one of the potential options for improving efficiency, reducing women drudgery, saving time and cost, and creating conducive environment for the competitive market price of the produced Agri commodities [1]. The new grading machine will cut costs, save time and reduce drudgery. This is all about supporting farmers and sustainable farming practices.

Nepal does not produce a lot of post-harvest and processing machinery, which means the machines available in the market are costly.[2]

Recognising this gap, Sahaj project implemented by Swisscontact promotes innovation in local Agri machinery manufacturing ecosystem. In January 2023, Sahaj in collaboration with Tribhuwan University, Institute of Engineering - IOE, and Purwanchal Campus, Dharan organised a local level innovation challenge for students studying agriculture engineering to develop a low cost Agri machinery.

The ‘Grading Machine Innovation Challenge’ sought to inspire students to create cost-effective, and efficient vegetable/fruit grading machine. Sahaj provided participating teams the platform to network, fostering broader impact and collaboration among various stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem ensuring the designs met the challenge criteria.

Richa and Vixa check the machine utility.

44 teams in the challenge 'The Agrineers'

During their research, the Agrineers realised a lack of sufficient data on crop diameters, especially for tomatoes grown in Nepal's diverse topography. Sahaj organised the market immersion visit for all finalists to interact with the farmers, traders, machine manufacturers, and local public service providers.

A total of 44 teams participated in the challenge 'The Agrineers', a team of four second (now third) year students (Bishwas, Richa, Vixa, and Lekhnath) from ERC College won the challenge beating six other finalists. The Agrineers was mentored by Er. Lal Babu Acharya. 

From the immersion visit and their own comprehensive field study, visiting farms and closely observing the harvest system in Nepal, the Agrineers successfully developed a simple, yet effective grading machine using a belt-pulley system to efficiently grade vegetables and fruits. This innovation promises to add significant value to farmers' produce, improving its marketability and profitability, ultimately leading to increase in income.

"Growing up in a farmer’s family allowed me to experience the labour-intensive traditional farming practices and the challenges of accessing profitable markets which only motivated me to work further. My goal is to leverage this knowledge to develop innovative solutions that can help overcome the challenges faced by farmers."
Vixa, Agrineer student 
The winning vegetable grading machine design by Agrineers.

Building entrepreneurial capacity along the value chain

Swisscontact’s commitment to promoting environment friendly innovation and mechanisation in agriculture led Sahaj to partner with Kamakshya Agro and Engineering Pvt. Ltd. which specialises in producing agricultural machinery.

Kamakshya is in the process to produce a low-cost vegetable grading machine using Agrineers' design. This machine will be tested in fields with farmers, collectors, and traders. Their feedback will help tweak the machine to fit farmers' and traders' needs. The first prototype will cost NPR 18,000 (CHF 119) but making more should be cheaper. This means bigger profits for farmers.

Sahaj continues to push forward. Sahaj’s partnership with Singhabahini Engineering already made affordable dryers for cardamom, boosting prices for farmers. This proves Sahaj's approach of bringing innovation to farming works. Just like those dryers, these new grading machines are set to make a big difference. The new grading machine will cut costs, save time and reduce drudgery. This is all about supporting farmers and sustainable farming practices. 

Smoke less cardamom dryer developed by Sahaj's partner Singhabahini Engineering.

Sahaj is an SDC project implemented by a consortium of Swisscontact (as the lead agency) and CEAPRED.

[1] Gauchan, Devendra & Shrestha, Shreemat. (2017). Agricultural and Rural Mechanisation in Nepal: Status, Issues and Options for Future.


Sustainable agriculture
Sahaj - Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme
In 2017, agriculture contributed around 27.04 per cent to Nepal's GDP. Agriculture is a major source of livelihood in the country. However, the agriculture sector is still in a nascent stage as far as technology and modern cultivation methods are concerned. Agriculture mainly engages smallholder farmers who continue to use traditional methods of...