Thiruvananthapuram: Coconut palm still remains a tough tree to be conquered by machines even as the land of coconut is in desperate search for one due to the grim shortage of manual climbers.
Various devices developed by innovators to scale the tall tree proved far from successful during a competition-cum demonstration organised by Kerala Industries Department at a palm garden near here yesterday.
Of the 12 gadgets shortlisted for the contest, just a single one could progress beyond the half-way height of the tree but still failed to reach the summit and pluck the nuts.
While most of the designs put on display were rope-and-pulley devices to be operated from the ground, what hogged the limelight of the day was a motorised machine with wheels and a seat for the plucker fitted to it.
The machine, designed by one Chandran from Thrissur, went up slightly above the halfway mark but had to make a comeback before summiting the tree.
Chandran, however, sounded confident of perfecting his brain child into a reliable machine and making it available at affordable coast to farmers.
The idea of holding a contest for innovators was mooted by the Industries Department last year. As many as 400 concepts were received, out of which the innovators of 109 designs were shortlisted for interviews. The technical committee chose eight proposals and gave them Rs one lakh each for incubation.
Apart from these a few other innovators also came up for competition with the devices developed on their own without any state aid.
A senior Industries Department official, however, said the response was quite encouraging and the day would not be far off when a perfect machine was going to evolved.
Shortage of coconut pluckers was grave problem faced by the farm sector in Kerala, most due to the reluctance of the young generation to take to the hard profession.