SunCulture, based in Nairobi, Kenya, sells the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit (ASIK), an entirely solar-powered drip irrigation system that makes it easier and cheaper for farmers to grow a wide variety of crops. The kit combines solar water pumping technology with high-efficiency drip irrigation and includes everything a farmer needs to grow more while spending less, in a sustainable and energy-efficient way. REEEP, as a project partner, will provide information and knowledge management support.
The majority of farmland in Africa is unsuited to rain-fed agriculture, yet only 6 percent is under irrigation and crop yields are low. The African market lacks aggregation of the presently disconnected and inefficient agriculture value chain. Farmers rely on expensive diesel pumps which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, or hand carried water, typically collected by women and girls.
The SunCulture AgroSolar Irrigation Kit combines cost-effective solar pumping technology with a high-efficiency drip irrigation system to make it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow. The kit pulls water from any water source (lake, river, stream, well, borehole, water harvester, etc.) using solar power. The solar panels provide the pump’s electricity directly without the need for expensive batteries or inverters. Water is pumped into a raised water storage tank during the day. When irrigation takes place during the evening, a valve on the water tank is opened and water flows down through a filtration system and onto crop root zones via drip irrigation tape.
As a result of switching to solar irrigation, smallholder farmers will realize significant benefits. These benefits include increased production of higher value produce, cost savings, and more efficient use of time. Time saved on farming and water gathering can be directed to other more productive activities. In addition, SunCulture’s system has environmental benefits - in the next year, current SunCulture farmers will save 1.4 billion liters of water and generate over 84,000 kilowatt hours of power annually - all this while growing over 9.4 million kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Since the beginning of the Powering Agriculture award, SunCulture has deployed AgroSolar Irrigation Kits (ASIKs) across East Africa which allowed farmers to provide better nutrition, higher quality education, and healthcare for themselves and their families. They have trained 25 technicians, 8 Agronomists, and 4 Area Sales Representatives that provide agronomy support from planning through harvest, as well as installation and after-sales support to the beneficiary farmers. SunCulture has also started to develop distribution partnerships in Tanzania and Zambia. SunCulture recently launched their latest product—the RainMaker—which utilizes a smaller, less expensive pump, incorporates wireless soil and weather sensors, and can support household uses as well as agricultural applications. The response to the RainMaker has been very positive, and the company hopes to expand their distribution partnerships across the continent next year. In addition to RainMaker, SunCulture has also launched its Pay-As-You-Grow financing platform, making its products and services more accessible to for potential customers.