Solar-powered solution for farmers who get nothing due to failed rains.

He walked into the venue of the recent East African Digital Farmers’ conference in Nairobi, a rather nondescript young man, dressed in blue slacks and a matching waistcoat.

He had a presentation to make. He finished 20 minutes later to a standing ovation, for one of the simplest presentations, about a most extraordinary innovation.

He Had presented a sensorbased irrigation system that works without labour, but with efficient use of water. The innovation is credited to three men who came together and combined their different educational backgrounds and expertise, to create a solution for a problem they had observed.

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Mr Daniel Maitethia’s background is in physics and biology, Samuel Ntongai Lalai is an engineer and an electrical guru and James Karuri Maranga’s strength lies in IT.

“I noticed the two while I was their teacher and saw how hardworking they were,” says Mr Mateithia, a middle-aged father of three. “The two wanted to help Kenyan farmers who would plant crops and get nothing due to failed rains. I decided to work with them on the solution,’’ he adds.

They knew that an efficient irrigation system would be part of the solution, but it should work with minimal water and little or no labour. And so they combined their efforts, each drawing from their different strengths.

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The result of this cocktail of expertise is what we are seeing today, an irrigation system that runs off-grid, uses water efficiently and literally requires no labour.

The trio believe the innovation is a godsend for farmers across the country, but especially located in the ASAL areas, which receive little or no rainfall.

The machine runs on solar and automatically dispenses water, in optimum quantities and only when the moisture content goes below the optimum level. Dry conditions alert the machine, which immediately opens the appropriate water tap.

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It also shuts itself off as soon as the moisture content hits the required levels. Precision is key and the efficiency of this system saves you 80 per cent water loss. In a situation where one is using harvested water, it essentially means that it lasts much longer due to reduced water wastage and loss that would result if one used a bucket or pipe.

Read more in Issue 40 of Smart farmer Magazine

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