Fishing could become more environment-friendly and commercially viable with the introduction of a fishing trawler that runs on solar energy.
"I began using the solar fishing boat last month. It is functioning well and delivering good results", Asghar Saiyed who hails from Mangrol taluka in Gujarat's Junagadh district said.
Saiyed is the owner of the solar boat developed by two private companies. The trawler was launched in Ahmedabad in
December last year.
For Saiyed, who has been using the solar boat for over a month now, fishing has become less expensive against huge expenses incurred towards fuel and maintenance of traditional trawler.
"My old boat consumed enormous amount of petrol, diesel and kerosene resulting in huge expenditure. Using solar boat for fishing does not entail any expenditure on this front", Saiyed said.
The angler claims marginal increase in the catch as well as the solar boat does not generate any sound as had been the case with the trawler which would result in fish getting away.
However, the catch lies in the higher cost even as manufacturers feel it will gradually come down in near future.
Akhil Gujarat Macchimaar Mahamandal vice president Velji Masani agrees, saying the solar boat is too expensive.
"However, introduction of solar fishing boat is a good move keeping in mind the environment", he added.
While, conventional fuel-operated fishing trawler costs around Rs 3 lakh, the solar version Rs 8.5 lakh, Masani said, adding the outboard motor of solar fishing boat is equivalent to the total cost of a traditional fishing boat.
In addition, its battery is heavy and generating speed becomes difficult in turbulent waters, he said.
Solar fishing boat is the brainchild of Ahmedabad-based Devarch Technologies Pvt Ltd and Kochi-based Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions Pvt Ltd.
Explaining the mechanics, Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions Pvt Ltd CEO Sandith Thandasherry said solar panels installed on top of solar boats convert sunlight into electrical energy and also provides shade to fishermen.
"The energy gets stored in the battery through a charge controller which improves the efficiency of electricity generation apart from protecting the battery life", he said.
According to Thandasherry, the charge controllers are fitted with Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) which ensures that even when sunlight is low optimum energy will be generated.
"The biggest benefit is drastic reduction in consumption of fuel for fishing", he claimed.
Thandasherry said the company was planning to manufacture more solar fishing boats as many fishermen have evinced interest but admitted that the initial cost is a hindrance and they are hoping that the government can provide subsidy to anglers.
Devarch Technologies Pvt Ltd MD KK Jadeja agrees that poor fishermen may not be in a position to buy solar fishing boats but the cost can get even in four years.
"In four years, the cost incurred on solar fishing boat can be recovered", he claimed.
On the structural aspect of the solar fishing boat, Jadeja said it was more or less similar to a conventional fishing trawler with the only addition being a small structure to support the panels.