The ordeal of cracking walnuts



A three day exhibition held recently on the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhawan at New Delhi focused on the grassroots levels innovations from the rural areas of the country. Inaugurated by President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, the  second annual exhibition  organized by National Innovation foundation (NIF) was not only unique in its nature and approach but it unfolded the vast knowledge and an innate desire of the rural folks to end their woes and hardship by utilizing traditional knowledge  to innovate. Many of them were illiterate.
Among 45 stalls at the exhibition, six were from Manipur, while 32 were from rural areas across the country. Among the innovation is a three piece walnut processing unit innovated by Mushtaq Ahmed Dar  of Islamabad (Anantnag). Hailing from Kreri village situated sixteen kilometers from the district headquarters of Islamabad (Anantnag), Dar, a young innovator of Kashmir  has developed a machine that can peel the green walnuts and crack it for its kernels. The traditional walnut cracking is a tedious and time consuming process. Mushtaq’s machine consists of three units. Peeling the green walnuts, washing and drying, and finally cracking the walnuts.   “ My village is engaged in agriculture and horticulture occupation. As a child I could see the hardships faced by our grand parents while processing the walnut manually, the acid ooze from the green walnuts injured the hands. I always dreamt of doing something for them.” Says Mushtaq, a simple and unassuming man born to late Gulam Nabi Dar and Raja Bano. Second eldest among the four brothers, he was quite and reclusive child. Walnut and apple orchids always attracted him. Meadows and fishes were another obsession. In fact fishes in the clear transparent waters of the village stream wading their way through the waters attracted him the most. Most of his wooden toys were fishes. “ Once a teacher saw my creation and asked me to make one her. That was a great boost. Some one had recogonised my talent. I became more confident and utilized my time in perfecting my skills. But the turning point came when I received a prize of Rupees one thousand for a carving of Gandhiji, an electro-mechanical sculpture which was displayed in Achabal on the occasion of National Science Day.” Says Mushtaq who  was then in eighth standard. The money received by him was promptly used for buying material and tools for innovations.
Thus the journey of Mushtaq living in a small hamlet of his tiny village of southern Kashmir began. He was  well known for his creative pursuits to the surrounding villages. But he lacked a clear direction. He was restricted by the information gaps and his access to the knowledge. However that was soon to be fulfilled.  Zahoor Ahmed Shah, a close friend who knew National Innovation Foundation brought him to the third award function of NIF in Ahmedabad. This journey along with a benevolent friend  was a sought of paradigm shift for Mushtaq. What he was creating and innovating in his own sphere of knowledge and accessibility to the information was merging with different spheres brought by individuals from the vast geographical area of the country. This merger and common sharing of knowledge on NIF’s  platform  intrigued Mushtaq.
“ I was amazed by the interaction I had at Ahmedabad. People from all walks, not even literate had innovated, designed products which could raise the standards of life. Nothing could stop them from solving problems and creating solutions.  They ended up giving shape to their thoughts. If they could do, why cannot I ?”  With this thought and an exposure to different World of NIF, Mushtaq came back to his village with ever re-surging thought to something for his own community. To alleviate the suffering of his own kins. To give them some comfort and raise their living standard. 
The walnut cracking was a cumbersome process manually. Can there be some way or method with which kernels can be brought out of the hard shell ? The green peel of the walnut is extremely acidic in nature. It can damage hands and skin. So an idea came up that translated into a machine that can crack up the walnuts without damaging kernels inside the walnut. The major components of the unit consist of a feeding hopper at the top, twin rollers with specific geometries to grip the walnut and deliver impact action, bearing support, a motor with a belt and pulley drive arrangement, related electrical circuits, and a metal flap angled at 45 degree located at the bottom to slide out the cracked walnuts.
The walnuts are fed from the top through the feeding hopper made of plywood. They slide down to the two grooved rollers, one of which is powered and the other free to rotate. The gap between the rollers can be adjusted from 0.5 to 2.5 cm depending on the walnut size and shape. This setting can be adjusted by the operator anytime from outside the unit.
The sheer action of the roller cracks the walnut, which is then channeled down by the angled flap. It then gets deposited in the gunny bag or basket positioned near the exit chute. The machine can process around 80 kg of walnut per hour and 20 kg of almond per hour. The efficiency of the machine calculated using nylon and aluminum rollers came to be 79.5 per cent and 75.2 per cent respectively.
The novelty of the device lies in its minimalist yet versatile design, with a smart set of drives, the use of two grooved rollers, which can be set to handle the various sizes, shapes and rigidities of walnuts and facilitate peeling of green fruit. The roller design and arrangement has also been customized. They have been provided with grooves in specific geometries, which grip the nuts securely when passing through the rollers. NIF filed a patent for the machine in Mushtaq’s name in September, 2006 (2347/DEL/2006) and facilitated the incubation  at GIAN (Grassroots Innovations Augmentations Network ) J&K in Kashmir University, Srinagar; supporting it with technical inputs and finances whenever necessary.
Prof. Anil Gupta of IIM Ahmedabad and Vice President of INF along with a team of dedicated and motivated workers, the idea behind NIF, are upbeat. The idea to harness the traditional knowledge and help realize the dreams of grassroots innovators  is on the path of realization. “ Any one, any individual with an idea that can change the lives and livelihood can approach us. Conjuring an idea is the most important. Come with an idea and we will help realize it.” The National Innovation Foundation can be approached from toll free no.1800-233-5555.

(Anoop Khajuriya is Senior Producer  Doordarshan)

Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST

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