Feature Story: Powering Agriculture ‘Graduates’ First Innovators!
The Earth Institute planned to use its Powering Agriculture funding to create a smart-metered, micro-solar utility model to provide electricity for pumping to farmers currently using diesel-powered pumps in northern Senegal.
By the end of the Powering Agriculture Award in March 2016, the Earth Institute team, with the assistance of their local partner, Millennium Promise, had installed three shared battery-less solar PV pumping systems. All three systems are operating at maximum utilization, serving 21 farmers in the village of Potou, Senegal. The installations maximize the land farmers irrigate, allowing even those farmers with small land holdings and/or little access to capital to benefit from irrigation. The farmers have earned between $1,500 and $2,000 per season from their harvest, as they are now growing higher value crops. By eliminating the use of gas pumps, each farmer avoided the emission of approximately one quarter ton of carbon dioxide per season, as well as saving the time and money needed to purchase gasoline. As part of the project implementation, three dozen people have been trained to use the clean energy solution. Access to pay-as-you-go irrigation in this part of coastal Senegal has shown farmers how they could potentially grow two crops in a year and generate an annual revenue of as much as $5,000 per hectare. The Earth Institute is now seeking partnerships for scaling up, adoption and local maintenance contracts.
L to R: Traditional water collection; irrigation lines; farmer checking solar PV panels; irrigated field. Photos: Earth Institute at Columbia University
Hydrocooler hutch; moving tomatoes through cooling stages. Photos: Rebound Technologies
Rebound Technologies intended to use its Powering Agriculture funding to demonstrate their off-grid refrigeration system, known as SunChill™. The system is intended to increase agricultural productivity by removing field heat from crops and providing continued cooling at local markets or central processing facilities. The first step in the project was to design, build and test a prototype system in their United States-based lab located in Colorado. This was followed by the building, implementation and refinement of a demonstration unit in Mozambique.
By March 2016, Rebound had validated its SunChill™ field demonstration unit, constructed from locally sourced parts, at their project partner Mozambique Organicos, a for-profit farm located in Inhambane Province, Mozambique. Mozambique Organicos also serves as an incubator, teaching farming skills to local women. A local farmer was trained to operate the system, and it was operated continuously, confirming the reliability of the cooling cycle and the viability of the product. The total project effort resulted in the completion of the engineering work that forms the technology foundation. Remaining is the industrial design work necessary to move SunChill™ to a commercialized product available for deployment. Rebound plans to Open Source all SunChill™ engineering documents by the end of 2017, allowing students and entrepreneurs to leverage Rebound’s lessons learned and transition them into a successful, marketable product.
Midterm Evaluations Published
Sep. 30, 2016—Powering Agriculture releases two midterm assessments; a program-level evaluation of the Powering Agriculture Initiative, and an assessment of the 2013 Innovators’ progress to date.
Powering Agriculture recently issued midterm evaluations of the overall program and the 2013 Innovator cohort. Syspons GmBH, an external evaluation team, prepared the program-level evaluation, which will inform future decision-making by the Founding Partners.
The Innovator assessment was conducted by Tetra Tech ES, Inc., through the USAID-funded Powering Agriculture Support Task Order (PASTO). Findings from the report will be used to make mid-course adjustments to improve the effectiveness of the program and accelerate the development and deployment of Innovators’ clean energy solution.
Stories from the Field: Innovators in Action
Presenting in Jordan. Photo: ICU
ICU held a series of roadshow events in Jordan, aiming at introducing drip irrigation and fertigation systems powered by solar energy to farmers in the cities of Mafraq, Zarqa and Shobak. The workshops raised awareness of and demonstrated to rural farmers the environmental and economic savings related to the use of PV-powered efficient irrigation systems and presented the services they can use to access such technology. More than 70 farmers participated, with 20 expressing interest in being pilot farmers for the project.
UVG hosted a reception on October 13, at the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. The event featured an update on education in Guatemala, highlighting developments at the University and its exciting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational programming. Similar to their efforts under PAEGC to bring mini-grids to off-grid rural communities, UVG is also working to promote STEM education in Guatemala’s indigenous communities.
SunCulture has been selected as one of fifteen finalists for one of two $100,000 awards from worldwide sponsors Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL). Following a presentation of solutions, two winners will be announced in November at the 6th Annual Ocean Exchange, held in Savannah, Georgia.
Innovators Reach Production Milestones!
Promethean recently surpassed the 400th sale of their milk chillers/Thermal Batteries. This important milestone continues their progress in supporting the cold chain infrastructure in India, while eliminating the use of diesel generators.
Futurepump produced their 1000th solar irrigation pump this month. The portable SF1 pump provides smallholder farmers a cheaper, cleaner and more sustainable alternative to pumps using fossil fuels.
Innovators In the News
- EarthSpark International: Haiti Microgrid “Fared Comparatively Well” in Hurricane Matthew | Microgrid Knowledge
- Promethean Power Systems: An MIT Lesson in Failure Helps Deliver Fresh Milk to Millions in India | PRI
- Futurepump: Solar Powered Pumps Reduce Irrigation Costs | Farmers Review Africa
- Motivo Engineering: A Conversation With Praveen Penmetsa, CEO/Founder | Forbes
- KickStart International: Pumping up Entrepreneurial Spirit in Africa | Redshift (formerly Line/Shape/Space)
Oct. 26, 2016: Increasing Efficiency in the Agricultural Value Chain Workshop
The German Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, will host a workshop about energy efficiency’s role in food value chains and reducing post-harvest losses. The German Delegation of Industry & Commerce will lead the event, with help from Powering Agriculture Founding Partner GIZ, and Powering Agriculture.
Oct. 28, 2016: Sida-USAID Gender Workshop
Powering Agriculture Founding Partner Sida is hosting a closed, bilateral partner meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss efforts, successes and lessons learned in expanding gender integration support to Innovators being funded through the Powering Agriculture and Securing Water for Food Grand Challenges.