As the demand for high quality crops continue to grow and stringent measures imposed upon food products across the globe, more and more companies are coming up with innovative ways to help farmers cope with these demands. One such company is SunCulture which is the only service provider of its kind in Kenya helping farmers mint money from tapping the sun to generate enough energy to irrigate up to 40 acres of land in the most affordable way.

The company was born in October 2012 but became operational in May 2013 due to the vigorous trials that had to be conducted to authenticate its viability. By November 1, 2013 SunCulture had installed 24 systems tailored for different farmers with different sizes of land across the country.

According to the two managing directors of SunCulture, Charles Nichols and Samir Ibrahim, the new technology was inspired by listening to different problems faced by the modern farmer ranging from affordable water pumps, high cost of production, high cost of labour, lack of technical knowhow to limited information on recommended farm inputs among others.

And to help these farmers they put their heads together to provide the solutions into these problems and came up with SunCulture AgroSolar Irrigation Kit which combines cost-effectivesolar-pumping technology with a high-efficiency drip irrigation system to help farmers grow more while spending less.

The smallest system, SP-300 Solar Pumping System, according to the two managing directors has the capacity to irrigate a two acre piece of land and goes for only KSh220,000. They are encouragingfarmerstogrowhigh value crops mostly horticulture which takes a shorter period to grow but have high returns.

In this whole setting all a farmer needs to do is prepare land by tilling, preparation of beds and the rest is left to the SunCulture system. The system is designed in such a way that it is automated by just opening the main tap and the allocated piece of land is fully irrigated.

The drip irrigation system includes a long-life drip irrigation tape, filtration system, fertilizer injection system, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and poly- vinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, all required connectors, fittings, and valves.

On the other hand the system is also fitted with a solar pump system which consists of a direct current submersible solar pump with controller and float switch, solar panels, security stand for solar panels (12 foot), electrical cable, conduit pipe and HDPE pipe.

How it works

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 AgroSolar Irrigation 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 then pumped into a raised water storage tank during the day use later on. 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.

The two directors say the system can help a farmer save up to KES 20,000 monthly on fuel costs only by using the included solar pump instead of a petrol or electric water pump. And with the right application of the recommended farm inputs a farmer can also earn up to a whopping KES 1,000,000 per acre, per season by growing capsicum, tomatoes, onions, and cabbages for the market, reduce labour costs due to the simplicity of the drip system to operate, reduce fertilizer waste by using the included fertilizer injector to apply fertilizer through the drip system, produce high-quality vegetables that meet the standards of restaurants, greengrocers, and produce exporters and access expert SunCulture technicians to advise, install, and provide after- sales support

SunCulture does not stop there but they have also involved local financial institutions among them banks to enable farmers’ access credit. They further help the farmer look for the most favourable market

 

]Hortinews November-December/January 2014

By Ann Ndung’u