SunCulture's New Solar-powered Water Pump Poised to Transform Agricultural Output

Published Oct. 3, 2017

By SunCulture

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.

SunCulture’s RainMaker system targets mass market of underserved smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

RainMaker, an innovative internet-connected solar water pump system introduced today by SunCulture, is designed to help smallholder farmers in underserved communities improve agricultural productivity and profitability by providing a long-lasting, low cost solution to unreliable rainfall and lack of access to grid electricity.

SunCulture solar irrigation pump

Photo: SunCulture

RainMaker’s high-efficiency positive displacement pump lifts up to 7,000 liters of water per day from wells up to 100 meters deep (328 feet), offering substantial value compared to higher priced systems that can lift water only 10 meters. Using energy from the portable 120-watt solar panel and battery bank, RainMaker pumps enough water to irrigate a one-acre farm and support livestock and household water needs like drinking, cooking and cleaning.

“Most small holder farmers in Africa are only one bad harvesting season away from financial ruin,” says Samir Ibrahim, CEO and co-founder of SunCulture. “Solar-powered irrigation offers farmers an affordable alternative to the cost of diesel and electric irrigation technology, enabling them to substantially reduce energy costs and boost agricultural output.”

Farmer irrigating her field with a SunCulture solar irrigation pump

Photo: SunCulture

Four out of five African families depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but just four percent use irrigation with the rest relying on increasingly unreliable rainfall. Switching to irrigated agriculture increases yields by 90 percent when compared to nearby rain-fed farms (World Economic Forum, 2015), but high diesel costs make irrigation an unaffordable expense for many small farmers. With 620 million Africans lacking a connection to the electricity grid, electric water pumps are also not a viable option.

RainMaker is both low-maintenance and highly efficient, providing farmers with high value fruits and vegetables while dramatically boosting profitability. Using RainMaker can help boost a farmer’s income to 1.2 million Kenyan Shillings ($11,538) annually compared to less than 300,000 Kenyan Shillings ($2,884) relying on rain fall.

A farmer irrigates his crops

Photo: SunCulture

SunCulture’s cutting-edge Climate Smart pump controller automatically optimizes pump performance and battery charging based on cloud cover―extending pumping by up to 6 hours on cloudy days. The controller includes long range, low power LoRa connectivity compatible with wireless soil and weather sensors that enable farmers to irrigate automatically based on soil moisture and climate conditions.

RainMaker is available in Kenya for 50,000 Kenyan Shillings ($480) including solar pump, controller, battery bank, portable solar panel and sprinkler. Delivery, installation, agronomy support and after-sales services are included in the price. RainMaker will soon be available on SunCulture’s Pay-As-You-Grow platform that will enable convenient installment payments via mobile phone.

About SunCulture

SunCulture products and services currently enable over 10,000 people in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia to access renewable energy and irrigation, increasing their incomes through cost savings and improved agricultural productivity. This year alone, SunCulture customers will grow U.S. $40 million worth of food and produce two gigawatt-hours of renewable energy.

SunCulture was founded in 2013 by entrepreneurs Samir Ibrahim and Charlie Nichols. Ibrahim is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Winner. Nichols developed the technology behind SunCulture while studying mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute where he researched the application of renewable energy to small-scale water pumping systems. SunCulture has been recognized as a Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer (2017), London Stock Exchange Companies to Inspire Africa (2017), Ashden Award Finalist (2017), Forbes 30 Under 30 (2017), PV Magazine Business Model Award (2016), and FT/IFC Transformational Business Award for Sustainable Agriculture (2016). The RainMaker technology was funded by the GSMA Mobile For Development Utilities Innovation Fund, which is supported by the UK Government.

For more information on RainMaker and other SunCulture products, contact SunCulture at +254 (0) 700 327 002, or email at: sales@sunculture.com.

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SunCulture recently introduced its new solar water pump system which it hopes will transform agricultural output in water-scarce regions. The pump is both low-maintenance and highly efficient, enabling farmers to grow high-value fruits and vegetables while dramatically boosting profitability.

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