Coconuts are big business in the Indian state of Kerala, but since the decline of the caste system, which once dictated people’s professions, professional coconut-pickers have become hard to find. Young men from the region would rather go off to find white-collar jobs than shimmy up coconut palms all day. Between 2005 and 2008, coconut production in Kerala went from from 6 million to 5.5 million.
So the Keralan government has issued a world-wide challenge: Invent an inexpensive machine that can be operated from the ground, and can pick coconuts off palms up to 30 meters high. The winner will receive 1 million rupees (about $20,600).