Gowda milk
Gowda milks a cow with his machine. Photo | Nagesh Polali

The Rural Edison of Karnataka – Gowda

In mofussil Karnataka, 80 km from Mangaluru, a retired school headmaster-turned-farmer’s inventions have slowly been changing the way cows are kept and milked. Headmaster Gowda, as he is called in his village Muruliya under Sullia taluk, launched his improvised, low-cost cow-milking machine and a steel cowshed last month.

Gowda cites an instance where he found the feeding trays in a cowshed were too high. “Cows like to bend while feeding and end up dragging the fodder to the ground. When cow dung mixes with the fodder, it becomes unpalatable,” the 62-year-old explains. His ready-to-move cowshed not only eliminates such problems but is maintenance-free. The shed comes with a wall-mounted milking machine called Milk Master. By sliding, it saves farmers the trouble of shifting the machine from one cow to another. The milking machine is a seventh variant and facilitates simultaneous milking of two cows.

“The shed is made of steel frames, since iron bars rust and catch fungus. The rubber mat on the floor facilitates easy diversion of cow dung to a bio gas tank. Waste water used for cleaning animals is channeled into a slurry tank,” he explains.

With a built-in 24-hour water supply, the cowshed can accommodate four cows and is priced at `1.75 lakh.

It all started in 2003, when Gowda formed Ksheera Enterprises next to his house. He and his headmistress wife had guilt pangs after they sold off their milch cows in 2000 since “micro or small-scale dairy farming seemed a burden due to our stressful jobs as teachers and unreliable laborers”.

Then available milking machine, Alpha Level, priced at `84,000, was too costly for many farmers. One morning, while observing the working of Gutter, a spray pump used for spraying pesticides, Gowda had a brainwave. He decided to apply the vacuum principle and develop a low-cost cow-milking machine. His first manual prototype revolutionized the way cows were milked in his village.

But it needed improvisation. After one demonstration, Gowda was aghast to discover that the cow’s udders had swollen. Experts from Dakshina Kannada Co-operative Milk Producers Union Limited had warned him about this.

“But the overwhelming response to Milk Master helped me realize the acute need of a low-cost mechanized milking,” he says. He and his eldest son-in-law, engineer Kusumadjara Kepalakaje, visited dairy farms to witness the models of mechanized milking. “These visits restored confidence in my vacuum principle,” the inventor says.

Four years and 15 models later, Gowda designed a refined machine that milked cows and buffaloes using reciprocating vacuum pumps. The alternating of pressure creates a simulation of the human hand milking the cow. “It is so soothing that cows dozed off,” Gowda says. There is no leakage and the machine ensures no milk is left in udders.

Today, Ksheera Enterprises exports machines in seven models, including manual, electric, double cluster and battery-operated to Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Philippines, Kenya, New Zealand and Mexico. “Over 11,000 models have been sold,” says Gowda’s eldest daughter Maina Kusumadhara K, who handles marketing in Bengaluru.

In 2005, Gowda received the National Innovation Foundation award for grassroots innovation from then President A P J Abdul Kalam. He has no regrets on setting up his industry in a village and roping in his younger daughter Madhu Yahish and son-in-law Yathish Paloli to assist him.

“Industries in villages will prevent youth from migrating to cities and will help them assist their elderly parents in farming,” he says.

Gowda is now working on many devices, including one that can spray pesticides in a 360-degree direction (covering 20 are canut palms), a fodder cutter and easy methods of bee-keeping. But he will always be known for his Milk Master, which has revived micro dairy farming in villages even outside India.

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