Many times life puts us to the test and the story of Alfredo Carrasco provides many lessons in this regard, a professional who is developing a prototype of agricultural wheelchairs and very particular orchard workshops.
A serious accident made him change his focus and start leading efforts to improve inclusion and technological innovation in the Chilean countryside.
The agricultural technician a few years ago became a paraplegic after suffering an accident while mountain biking. His condition led him to devise in 2020, with the support of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), the Farmhability project.
It is an inclusive farm where people in wheelchairs or reduced mobility could produce and market vegetables, but it did not stop there. He is currently leading an initiative to produce an inclusive wheelchair, intended for agricultural work.
This project has the support of Inacap and is financed through the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness of the Regional Government of O'Higgins and its Regional Council, framed in the Regional Innovation Strategy of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) "Call Regional 2021 of “Rural Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Projects of the O'Higgins Region”.
To learn more about this story of effort, I invite you to review the following interview:
Farmhability was born in 2019 thanks to an FIA fund for young innovators, which allowed me to train and at the same time they also gave me resources to be able to make the first greenhouse and enabled productive space in the country, so that a person with a disability can function in that productive space and thus produce vegetables.
In the first instance it was so that I could get by, since in 2017 I suffered an accident, which left me paraplegic. From 2019 to date we have been receiving people in wheelchairs, older adults and the general public, conducting workshops and training in domestic crops and hydroponic crops. And now out of necessity too, I had to go back to cultivating in the open field, and also expand that production, and I found it difficult to move within the open field. Using the wheelchair on the same worked land makes it very difficult for me to use a wheelchair, so the possibility of applying for another FIA fund arose, but now to be able to develop this wheelchair prototype that will allow me to get around in the open field and be able to do some tasks there.
How did this idea of building a prototype agricultural wheelchair and the Farmhability project come about?
What characteristics would that prototype have?
It will allow work inspection tasks, quality control of quality within the worksites and also harvest tasks, the movement itself within the worked field, among other tasks.
How would the prototype facilitate the movement to the open field, taking into account the characteristics of the terrain, which is generally very difficult?
Faced with that, it starts from the base, from a chassis and quad bike engine, which is going to be the chassis of this motorized vehicle. We still haven't defined whether it's going to be single-wheel drive or double-wheel drive, as I told you before, we're in the design stage, so we still don't have it one hundred percent developed.
Are the deadlines set to have it completely finished by 2022?
Exactly, by December the prototype will be developed and tested in the field, completely resolved.
An inexpensive chair
-We do not have wheelchairs or any vehicle adapted to work in the open field in our country, but at an international level there are some vehicles that would allow you to move through rough terrain. We are talking about the cheapest ones worth about 7 million pesos and from there up to 10 million.
This prototype will be in the range of 4 or 5 million pesos. In August the tests would begin, until November we will be testing, seeing that the entire design is ultimately consistent with meeting the needs we have.
In this project you have the support of Inacap…
of the teachers of the factory 4.0 from Inacap they are supporting above all in what is design, mechanical work, there are robotics teachers also in this stage. As they are teachers, they also have the support of students from their respective branches.
With the teachers of the 4.0 factory, they had been working since last year, and also 2021 final year students, who were giving their thesis. We were working on a conventional wheelchair to be able to adapt it and be able to raise the seat or leave it at ground level.
The truth is that it's going well, we've been there in meetings with the Inacap teachers, I also have a meeting with the people from the workshop to pinpoint the design, and see how we're developing this, which now at the end of May we have to present, the prototype design.
Have you thought how they are going to materialize that in many fields of Chile they could have access to this agricultural wheelchair?
This is a prototype and the idea is to see how we channel this to start producing in greater quantity and mainly our objective is to offer the chair to employers who have the possibility of acquiring it and can employ an older adult, a person with disability or any person with problems to move within the open field.
Tell me about Farmhability, how does it currently work?
We are promoting training and workshops for urban gardens, we are working with a group of older adults and people with disabilities, to whom we are giving complete training, from the most basic to giving them a kit and a cultivation table so that they can take them home. This is in conjunction with the Quinta de Tilcoco CCR.
At the same time, we are running agrotourism, open to all people, only that it has the particularity that a person with mobility problems can also visit us. It is open to all people who want to get more involved in the world of the field, and learn about cultivation techniques. Between 130 and 150 people in wheelchairs have participated in the workshops, in almost two years.
As is clear in this interview, innovation is not limited to purely technological issues. This great example shows how innovation can lead to generating value and changing the lives of hundreds of people from the point of view of labor inclusiveness. These types of initiatives with public-private support are on the right path, and make us stand out worldwide.
By Héctor Pincheira, he is a technological disseminator of the agricultural world, he is also a specialist in Information Technology and Digital Transformation of Companies