Georgekutty Kariyanappally’s solar powered inventions — poultry incubator and cargo vehicles— are attractive alternatives to fuel-run technology
Kochi-based entrepreneur Georgekutty Kariyanappally, a pioneer in renewable energy in Kerala, has worked with solar power for 21 years. He had to postpone his plans to deliver solar-powered vehicles to the Rotary Club of Vasco in Goa for the Food on Wheels programmeto July.
In 2014, when the electric vehicle (EV) was introduced in India, George travelled to New Delhi to gauge its potential. Later he bought 15 passenger auto rickshaws and converted them into cargo utility vehicles. The Food On Wheels has a kitchen unit comprising a burner and a dosa thattu, an almirah and solar-powered LED lighting. With an on-road price of ₹ 3,30,000, it would run for up to 80 kilometres on full charge. He also has plans to introduce a solar-powered fish-vending unit and a solar energy-run freezer.
George’s journey in this alternative energy field began with the solar lantern. In 1999, he returned to Kerala from West Asia to join the Malayalam daily Rashtradeepika. As its GM, marketing, he offered newspaper agents solar lanterns as an incentive. “I saw the product made by Photo Energy, Hyderabad, and felt it had good potential.” In fact, he was so impressed that he resigned from the newspaper and became a distributor for the company in Kerala. Soon, he found someone locally who could replicate it and “began manufacturing it”.
George founded Lifeway Solar Devicesin 1999 and was among the first in Kerala to produce a solar device. He also recruited 10 women from Kudumbashree, the Kerala government’s initiative to form neighbourhood groups to empower women, and found them “highly efficent”. He became the founder-secretary of Kerala Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs and Promoters Association ( KREEPA ), now an approved agency to advise the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) Government of Kerala.
George also began to think of providing employment to people in rural areas, since he came from Kuttanad, famous for its backwaters and paddy cultivation. Coincidentally, he was with the director of Ernakulam Welfare Centre, Ponnurunni, when the latter received a complaint of a poultry farmer losing 100 eggs when the incubator stopped working due to a power failure. That led him to explore if solar energy could be used to power incubators; “We have to sustain 38 degrees heat and 60 % moisture in the incubator for 21 days for the chicken eggs to hatch,” explains George. He constructed a local model —-first made with metal and later changed to fibre glass — which he displayed at an exhibition on Marine Drive, Ernakulam.
Thereafter, George met an IIT Madras professor and after incorporating the enhancements he suggested, showcased the model at an Innovations Meet at IIT Madras . There, he recalls, “I was asked, ‘What impact does this machine make in the social fabric of India’? He responded with a three-page essay arguing that a solar poultry incubator would enable illiterate, unemployed homemakers to save ₹800 per month if they took up backyard poultry farming with his100 eggs capacity Solar Poultry Incubator. His defence carried the day and his innovation won funding from by L RAmp (a joint initiative of IIT-Madras, the Rural Innovation Network, and the Lemelson Foundation, USA)
Following this, George set up a solar poultry incubator manufacturing unit in 2007 . The first order for 50 pieces costing ₹35,000, came from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh was followed by orders from all Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country. The incubator found its way to Meghalaya, Jharkhand and other remote corners of India, with George personally introducing farmers to the machine and the possibilities of solar power harnessing methods.
At the ‘Engineering in Agriculture’ meet conducted in New Delhi by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2014 , his solar poultry incubator technology attracted representatives from Ghana and Zimbabwe and that opened doors for BackYard Poultry farming in African countries.
In February 2021, he went to the remote islands of Sunderbans, the largest mangroves in the world, for the installation of his solar poultry incubators for the islanders. “My work in solar power has enabled me to help people improve their lives. I am blessed to have worked with Baba Amte in Indore, in Maharashtra and touched hundreds of human lives struggling to survive, especially in this pandemic,” he says.