Post by Nick Chu
Banana Cableway. Image from Marietta College Biology and Environmental Science Department.
Cable technology is good for a lot of things — there’s sightseeing, transporting minerals, public transit and yes, even relaxing in hot tubs.
But a form of cable application we really haven’t address so far is transporting agricultural products. Believe it or not, many ropeway systems around the world are used to transfer everyday food and plant items such as bananas and roses.
As seen in the video below by Centro Aceros, a Colombian company that builds cableways and produces steel bars, ropeways provides many advantages to farmers such as:
- high adaptability/flexibility
- low intrusiveness (minimal environmental impact)
- ability to cover inaccessible ground (across rivers and streams)
- low operating/maintenance costs compared to roads
- low energy consumption
- avoidance of soil compaction along harvesting lines
The manufacturer claims that systems can carry up to 90 tons of fruits on only 1.5 gallons of fuel! If accurate, that’s the equivalent of transporting 18 elephants with less than two milk jugs of gas. Talk about efficiency! And plus, maintenance is simple, no road construction and paving, just the simple periodic replacement of wheels, springs and oil filters.
The application of cable technology in more farming communities has the potential to make a huge impact.
Dr. Shankar Krishnapillai, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, has spotted a huge potential for increased usage of cableways in small, rural farms in India. The professor has recognized that many small farming operations struggle to hire sufficient manpower, especially during the labor-intensive harvesting season.
Dr. Krishnapillai’s solution is through the creation of a portable cableway. By his estimates, a simple system would still cost $4000 USD and would require four persons to operate. It’s unclear though how much his innovation can transport but ultimately, the main advantage lies in its portability. Since farmers only need the system for 10-15 days a year, the costs to build a cable system can be shared amongst many families.
While I’m not a farmer by any long shot (nor have I grown anything of significance), the concept of building a lightweight and transportable agricultural cableway is quite fascinating. If built, designed and costed properly, maybe one day cable systems can solve these labor and scalability issues in small farms and help bring much needed economic development in the poorest of regions.
Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the one of the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.