Sunflower Pump: Asset-Financed Solar Irrigation Pumps for Smallholder Farmers

Innovator (Country of Incorporation): 
Kenya
Collaborators: 
Equity Bank (Kenya)
Location Applied: 
Clean Energy Source: 
Agricultural Focus: 
Product Segment: 
Year of Award: 
Organization: 

Futurepump represents the commercial arm of a partnership that has spent the past ten years developing and perfecting the Sunflower solar irrigation pump. Futurepump is partnering with Kenya’s Equity Bank to make the Sunflower product available to customers through consumer financing that will lower the barrier to entry.

Problem/Opportunity: 

The growing capacity of many smallholder farmers is limited by their ability to irrigate. The limitation may be labor, in the case of manual irrigation, or the costs of purchasing and paying for fuel to run engine pumps. Women and children take on much of the work required to pump or carry water for irrigation. Restricted access to finance is a key constraint for smallholder farmers, particularly for female farmers. Women make up 50 percent of Kenya’s agricultural workforce.

Clean Energy Solution: 

Futurepump solar pumps are easy-to-maintain solar irrigation pumps, built around a simple piston pump arrangement. Futurepump has gradually improved their product and are now able to provide every pump with five-years warranty and remote monitoring as standard. They will also offer it on finance through partners, in order to lower the upfront barriers to solar technology. The project will have a major impact especially for women and children which take on much of the labor burden of manual irrigation or carrying fuel pumps. Using irrigation water that does not rely on engine pumps productivity can be doubled, in addition, the growing season can be extended through the dry season, during which produce brings higher market prices.

Impact: 

Productivity can be doubled through the use of irrigation water that does not rely on engine pumps. In addition, the growing season can be extended through the dry season, during which produce brings higher market prices. Futurepump’s customer, Bob Ouma, explains how he can now sell green maize in the dry season, fetching four times the income than that of the dried maize he used to sell.

Futurepump lowers the upfront barriers to solar technology by offering financing and allows small vegetable farmers to increase profits by as much as 45 percent through the use of a solar pump, while reducing their reliance on fossil fuel. All of these benefits will have a major impact on small-scale farmers, especially for women and children who take on much of the labor burden of manual irrigation or carrying fuel pumps.

Progress Update: 

At the end of FY2019, Futurepump had shipped over 2,200 solar pumps from their factory in India to Kenya. By shifting from direct sales to partnering with Davis and Shirtliff in Kenya, Futurepump has seen a notable increase in the number of units they have deployed—now over 1,750. A small pay-as-you-go financing pilot was conducted through a partnership with Angaza and Green Light Planet. One of the conclusions, based on some technical and ethical complexities, was that pay-as-you-go financing may not be the best way to provide productive assets. Futurepump continues to work with Equity Bank, SolarNow, and KuKuja Pamoja (formerly CoolCap) to offer product financing to customers. Women own 16% of the farms being serviced by Futurepump systems, and they make up 10% of the 86 maintenance professionals Futurepump employs. Futurepump’s award ends December 2019.

Project News: 
Feb. 13, 2019

Futurepump and their solar-powered water pump are among the African AgTech startups highlighted as changing the agricultural landscape with their clean energy solution.

Jan. 22, 2019

KickStart, Futurepump and SunCulture have developed affordable and effective technologies that are part of a movement toward farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa. Combined with accessible financing, technical know-how and community buy-in, these tools help farmers toward sustainable success.

Jan. 18, 2019

Once again, Futurepump and SunCulture have been selected by the London Stock Exchange Group as Companies to Inspire Africa. This pioneering report identifies Africa’s most inspirational and dynamic private, high-growth companies to a global market. Congratulations to them both!