May 31, 2016

Posted by in 2016, Cactus fruit picker/plucker, Field Visit, News | 0 Comments

Field Visit – Cactus Fruit Plucker

Field Visit – Cactus Fruit Picker, Amreli and Jasdan, Gujarat

Problems :These are the set of problems identified based on literature review before field visit. To develop an efficient tool for plucking cactus fruits which has following features:

  1. Easy and safe to use
  2. Similar or improved time efficiency
  3. Cost effective
  4. Require less physical efforts 


Purpose of the field visit:

To know about current methods employed, problems face by farmers, areas of improvement, market analysis


General Observations

  • Cactus fruit is found in very dry areas. There were two types of cactus plant we saw during field visits and fruits were available in one specific variety of plant. This plant has padded leaves and not circular as we generally see in cactus plants cactus 1
  • People generally do not grow these fruits but use these plants as fencing for their farms and houses. Therefore, these plants are generally found on roadside, around farms and in forests
  • Inspite of various advantages of this fruit, people are generally not aware of its features. Only people harvesting them and people living nearby are aware of its uses and features
  • This fruit can be used for various purposes like making juice, jellies, candies, jam, and in dye production. Its seed are used in curing diabetes, and for increasing iron content in human body
  • Plants are grow densly and it is not easy to access fruits
  • Thorns on plant and fruits are different. Plant has big thorns but fruits have very soft and small thorns(glochids). These gloochids can leave fruit during light wind


Cactus Fruit:

  • Cactus fruit is grown on the edges of the padded leaf and size varies from 4-8 cm (in diameter). Ripe fruits are generally red in colour and can be plucked easily with a small jerk cactus 2
  • Thorns on the fruit should not be ignored and thus without gloves they should not be touched at all which makes handpicking impossible
  • Edible part of this fruit is very less and major chunk of it gets wasted while peeling the fruit
  • It has large number of seeds which are not edible in raw form
  • Table life of these fruits is generally 3-5 days and can increase upto a month if kept in refrigerator

Areas Visited

Day 1: Chital, Amreli, Gujarat

Day 2: Lalavadar, Jasdan, Gujarat

Fruits were available in both of these areas and people have tried out different techniques to pluck fruits. But people in Chital harvested fruits for daily purposes and had no market was available forany source of income while people in Lalavadar plucked fruits on order basis and earned from cactus fruit picking.

Chital on one side was well developed village while Lalavadaron the other side had relatively poor economic conditions.

Rationale behind preliminary feedback questionnaire


1)      To capture experiences of stakeholders (laborers, farmers, self-help groups) related to cactus fruit business

2)      To evaluate performance of existing devices available for cactus fruit plucking

3)      It can form a basis for further design revisions (modifications) of the device

Description of Questionnaire-

Each team member prepared set of questions to be asked to the users. Then all the questions were discussed in the group and set of questions from each member were assimilated to come up with exhaustive questionnaire. This questionnaire was discussed with all the groups and final questionnaire was prepared.

Questionnaire is divided into four sections as follows-

A)      Background information: Information about the user and location where survey is conducted.

B)      Cactus bush & fruit: To gather information about cactus bushes, fruits, season of fruit, table life

C)      Cactus fruit plucking: Traditional devices used, problems associated with the process

D)     Expectations of user: Any other suggestions, problems which user wants to share or feedback which is not captured in above questions.

E)      Observational points: To guide us in design and understand intricacies involved



Location-                                               Date-                                        Translator-

Background Information:


Gender-                                         Age-


Daily/ Monthly wages from cactus harvesting-

Any other source of income-

Cactus bush

1)      Where does cactus grow? (Jungle/ farms/ roadside

2)      Different varieties of cactus growing in India?

3)      Trees growing near cactus/ fruits grown nearby?

4)      Do you use additional safety measures while you go for cactus harvesting? (For example: different footwear/ clothes)

5)      Accessibility of the fruits in bush?

6)      How do you reach to fruits in dense bushes?

Cactus fruit:

1)      Season of the fruit

2)      How do you choose ripe fruits? (Colour/ smell etc??)

3)      Do you pluck only ripe fruits? Right time to pluck ripe fruits.

4)      What time of the day do you pluck the fruits?

5)      Table life of fruit/ How much table life can be extended using refrigerator/ cold storage or any other method

6)      How do you remove thorns on the fruit? (use of a device-water and mesh/ fire/ bush)

7)      Which type of bush you use for removing thorns?

8)      How do you peel the fruit? Is there any machine available?

9)      Use of wastage from peeled fruit?

10)   Usage of cactus fruit seeds?

11)  Fruit selling directly or after processing

12)  Uses/ applications/ recipes from cactus fruit/ juice preservation

13)  Market demand

14)  Selling price of a fruit

Cactus fruit plucking:

1)      How do you pluck cactus fruit?

2)      Have you heard of any other methods or used any other or tried to make?

3)      What are the problems associated with fruit plucking (Physical efforts, injuries, skin problems, Pain at joints)

4)      What is the first aid solution to injuries?

5)      How many fruits do you pluck in a day? (per minute)

6)      How long do you work in a shift for cactus plucking?

Expectation of users:

1)      Do you need another instrument to pluck fruits?

2)      Give them idea about new possible methods and their feedback (show them designs and videos only VIMP)

3)      Affordable price of the device

Any other suggestion/ Comment you would like to give us. New value addition

Any other problem you are facing?

Observational Points:

1)      Get information on community involved:

2)      Observation: On dense bushes

3)      Observations :Minimum and maximum height of the bushes and location of the fruit

4)      Observations: Weight, height adjustability and cutting edges, material, hook shape

5)      Observations: Size and shape of the fruit?

6)      Observations and try: Show us demo of fruit plucking


Observations from the field visit:

  • In the places we visited in Gujarat, the collection of cactus fruit (findla fruit) is done by many organic farmers and small scale labours. This is their secondary source of income.
  • The farmers grow these cactus plants as fencing for their farms.



Traditional methods:

         1. Using stick and container:

For fruits at small and medium heights people use stick to jerk off the ripe fruits and container to collect the falling fruits.  cactus3


  • Easily available and easy to handle
  • No repair cost

Problems associated:

  • This method requires both hands and is unsafe
  • They can’t reach to fruits at heights
  • During collecting, thorns might prick your hands and/or body
  • Fruits which fall due to thejurk can’t be collected as they fall in dense thorny bushes


  1. Using pipe with L shape:

This method requires a device in which a L shape is attached to a long hollow PVC pipe. This device can be reached to fruits, orient towards it and plucked by giving a twist(to the pipe) and they gets collected in the pipe only which is cloed at the other end.   cactus 4


  • No need of separate container
  • Can be extended by attached a separate pipe with a connecter to reach different heights

Problems associated:

  • Fruits may fall outside of the pipe and become unrcoverable
  • It doesn’t have any cutter or groove to pluck and twist fruits from the plant. One has to do it manually which in current case needs long experience and practice


  1. Using Chinese clamp:

In this method, big scissors with bowl at the top is employed. Fruits are hold using the bowl through the scissors and pulled to pluck them.  cactus5


  • More than a single fruit can be plucked from this method which is not possible in any of the method developed so far
  • Easy to use as it is in the form of scissors
  • More fruits can be reached than stick and container method

Problems Associated:

  • One need to bring the fruits down after each step and thus require more physical work
  • Very inefficient method as it is time consuming


Improvements made by farmers:

  1. Use of hook to pluck more fruits                                             2.    Use of extendable container

instead of stick

cactus6                           cactus7

Lilaben demonstrating hook mechanism     Chaganbhai demonstrating use of extendable container


Market and demand:


In Amreli, primary purpose of cactus fruit harvesting is for house hold use and by small children. They can’t earn any livelihood as there is no market demand for the fruit. Therefore, these people do not have any interest in any device for plucking fruits.


People in this area are more seriously involved in this field. During season, they harvest fruits and sell them raw as well as after processing (juice) the fruits. Some key observations are:

  • They work on order basis and harvest when they receive order
  • Earnings from this vary from Rs. 50000-600000 per annum amongst farmers from cactus fruit harvesting
  • Raw fruits are generally sold Rs. 30 per kg to supplier which further sell uptoRs. 160 per kg in areas nearby
  • Half litre juice bottle is generally sold uptoRs. 150


Field testing of locally made device:

During visit to Chital, we found a device made by Upendrabhai. It has bike brake mechanism attached with a spring and a clutch attached. It was capable of holding fruit by applying brake which can be plucked either by twisting or pulling the fruit.  cactus8

TESTING 1: Normally Closed Device @Chital


  • It was capable of holding fruit and plucking
  • Use of simple brake mechanism which can be repaired easily
  • Very cost efficient; can be made in Rs. 200


  • The device was not long enough.
  • Spring was not strong enough to have a grip on the fruit

IMPROVEMENT DONE:Clutch was reversed so that when one press brake, clutch holds the fruit and spring was replaced to make it strong

TESTING 2: Normally Opened Device @Lalavadar


  • It was relatively easy to hold fruits before improvement
  • It could be used to pick up the fallen fruits as well    cactus10


  • It was difficult to orient for every fruit
  • Clutch was strong which sometimes was tearing the fruit
  • It was not a comfortable instrument as suggested by Chaganbhai
  • Need to bring device down after picking every fruit


Key challenges in fruit plucker:

  1. Picking fruits in dense areas at heights more than human body
  2. Attaching container to the device to improve time efficiency with no interruptions
  3. Cost effective as current devices are as cheap as Rs. 200
  4. Weight of the device should be less
  5. Protecting users from the thorns on plants and fruits
  6. Preventing fruits from falling down during plucking
  7. Preventing fruit damage while holding fruit during plucking
  8. Orientation of device for plucking fruits
  9. Safe to use and preventing them people from getting exposed to thorns
  10. Designing holder to hold fruits with different sizes

Improvements required


Key Challenges in cactus fruit processing:

Another problem observed during field visit was processing of cactus fruit for making juice. Large scale industries do mechanised fruit processing but for small scale/ household processing affordable and manually operated machines are not available. All the processes involved in fruit processing are very tedious.

1)      Removing thorns and peeling of outer layer of fruit is tedious process. Removing thorns results in injuries as well.

2)      Peeling process which is currently followed involves use of scissors or knife and there is wastage of fruit pulp in this process.

3)      Filtering of pulp to remove seeds is again a manual process.

4)      Another problem is storage and preserving cactus fruit juice for longer duration.

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