Farmers Without Tractors: CAD Design for Rural India

Written By: Peter Sutton
  • 1/26/2016

You don’t need a CAD software blog to tell you that tractors bring much needed torque and traction to farm fields. With these powerful machines, you can plow, till, seed, and harvest vast acreages of crops with relatively little effort. Not surprisingly, tractors have more than doubled farm productivity since being widely adopted in the US in the 1920s.

But here’s something you might not know: A significant amount of farming still takes place without any tractors at all. The machines are simply too expensive to buy and maintain for many agricultural families, especially for those with limited acreage. Take India.

Although that country ranks second in the world in farm output, the average farmer there earns the equivalent of $95 a month. And some make much less. As such, up to 55% of the total cultivated land in India is still worked by animals—think oxen, buffalo, and camels.


Image by Anand S, via Wikipedia.

So what’s all that have to do with 3D CAD design?

It turns out that even people who use beasts to plow their fields can still benefit greatly from innovative modern tools. “The design of traditional implements is based on long experience and these have served the purpose of the farmers,” write K.L.Phaniraja and H.H. Panchasara, in their paper Indian Draught Animal Power. “However, there is plenty of scope to improve the design based on animal-machine-environment interaction so as to have more output and increased efficiency without jeopardizing animal health.”

That is, better design of implements can raise productivity in areas where engine-powered machinery is out of reach.

PTC Creo customer Dharti Agro Engineering, based in Gujarat, India, knows that more than most. The company was the first to introduce a modern animal-drawn automatic seed and fertilizer implement. Shown in the image below, the device is designed to plant and fertilize 5 rows at a time while hitched to oxen.


Image: Ox-driven seed drill and fertilizer from

Dharti also innovates tools for manual cultivation. Check out this video of a multipurpose, human-powered tool that tills and plants as you walk your rows.

If Dharti’s implements look dead simple, that’s by design. When you produce equipment for agriculture in rural in India, the challenges are different compared to design for, say, a big budget operation in Nebraska. Product developers aim for the following with animal- and human-drawn implements:

  • Simplicity, for easy operation and repair.
  • Affordability.
  • Light weight, for easy transport and pulling.

Using PTC Creo, Dharti Agro Engineering meets design challenges of all kinds, whether products will be pulled by tractor, animal, or human. With our 3D CAD software, product design is more efficient, says the team. “We reduced design time by 30-40% using PTC Creo Parametric,” says Mr. Chiman Detroja. “We also reduced inventory by creating common designs and standardization.”

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Read more about PTC customers and the remarkable engineering challenges they conquer every day, all over the world. Visit our Case Studies page. And then sign up for our newsletter, PTC Express, to meet even more PTC customers like Dharti Agro each month.

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About the Author

Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton joined PTC in 2011 as the Director of Product and Solutions Marketing for CAD. He has over 15 years of experience in product marketing as well as five years as an engineer in the energy industry. Peter holds a MBA from the University of Connecticut and a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island.