Machine invented to replace monkeys climbing coconut trees

PHOTO: A new machine can replace monkeys climbing coconut trees on farms. (via Nation)

Monkeys climbing coconut trees have been an icon in Thailand for years, but have also drawn the ire of animal rights groups like People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Now the Agriculture Department has invented a machine that can help farmers climb coconut trees themselves, eliminating the need to train and use monkeys to harvest coconuts.

PETA released a report two years ago that pointed a finger at coconut farmers in Thailand, alleging that they abused monkeys to have them pluck coconuts from the tall trees. They called for an end to the practice, along with the use of monkeys in any sort of agricultural industry in Thailand and other countries around the world.

Fearing the negative attention from animal lovers would damage the reputation of Thailand’s famous coconut export industry, the Agriculture Department set about creating a solution to replace monkeys on coconut farms, according to the department’s director-general.

One such solution is selling small coconut tree sprouts, but a more practical solution for widespread use is the machine that they’ve created in response to PETA’s report to create good agricultural practices including a standard of monkey-free coconut farming.

The resulting contraption looks like leg braces but employs a belt to not only help farmers climb the trees but to do so safely, an improvement over the previous prototype in India that lacked any sort of safety features. While it’s not quite automated tall robots picking coconuts, it does move Thailand’s coconut industry one step closer to automation in the future.

According to the director-general, the contraption straps to the legs of a farmer, adding an extra five kilogrammes to each leg. This will enable a farmer to ascend the tree at a rate of about 0.14 metres per second, which is 8.4 metres per minute. The average coconut tree is between 18 and 24 metres high, which means a farmer could climb one in about two minutes and 15 seconds to three minutes.

The contraption invented by the Agriculture Department is currently being manufactured by three factories and farmers interested in purchasing the system can call (02) 579 2757 to contact the Agricultural Engineering Research Institute and order it.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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