From Hearing Aids to Farming, Solar Energy Powers Climate Innovation

Published: Oct. 19, 2015

By Magdalena Mis for Thompson Reuters Foundation

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

Set against the might of climate change, can small measures like solar-powered batteries or drip irrigation make a difference?

LONDON, Oct. 19—Innovations involving both are among 10 finalists in the 2015 Sustainia Award, an international competition for projects with a potential to address the impact of climate change.

One aims to light up dark corners of Africa through solar power systems paid for via mobile phones.

As an alternative to greenhouse gas-emitting kerosene and diesel generators, the off-grid systems, made by Germany-based Mobisol, are connected to a battery and aspiring entrepreneurs can even pocket some money by selling the excess energy.

For farmers in Kenya struggling with low and unpredictable rainfall and the high cost of fuel to power irrigation pumps, U.S.-based SunCulture offers solar-powered drip irrigation systems, which deliver water directly to the roots of the plans.

The company, which has already installed more than 250 such systems, says they allow water savings of up to 80 percent and yield gains of up to 300 percent.

“To date there has been too much talk and too little action (about sustainability and climate change),” said Esben Alslund-Lanthen, a researcher at Denmark-based sustainability think-tank Sustainia which organised the awards.

“We need people to actually take action on these issues if the world is to be a better place in the future. We hope to be able to inspire other people to take up these ideas and bring them to use in their own context.”

Other innovations include 3D visualisations for cities showing their solar energy potential, “plastic banks” offering cash for plastic waste, a solar-powered hearing aid and subscription-based leasing of children’s organic clothing.

The award committee is chaired by the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Winners will be announced on Dec. 6 during a U.N. conference in Paris in December which will aim to create a new global deal to curb climate change.

Related News & Events: 
Jan. 30, 2019

SunCulture's RainMaker2 powered by ClimateSmart™ is on the market! Not only can farmers irrigate their fields more sustainably and consistently, and with a reliable source of power, they can now benefit from internet-connected weather stations and soil sensors that provide informative alerts by SMS.

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!

Nov. 26, 2018

Farmers using the RainMaker solar-powered water pump can irrigate, support livestock, and even cook and clean. They also cut 17 hours of hauling water out of their workweek. Says one farmer: “I have water all the time. Even during the dry season I can plant crops as I wait for the rains to come.”

Aug. 14, 2018

Futurepump and SunCulture are part of an exciting group of companies making farming more connected and tech-centered in rural Kenya. Innovation, coupled with reliable IT infrastructure, has broadened the reach of new technologies into the countryside, solving everyday problems for rural families.