Seed World

Kenya’s Crop Production Could Increase 50% Thanks to New Partnership

Aston University, Solargen Technologies (SGT) and the University of Nairobi have teamed up through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the goal of developing a smart irrigation system with solar and wind energy that will offer year-round land watering to enhance crop production throughout Kenya.

SGT, a leading service provider in the Kenyan energy, water and irrigation solution sphere, partners with non-governmental organizations, government and individuals to offer services to rural and conflict-impacted communities within Eastern Africa.

While Kenya’s economy is agriculture-based, more than 80 per cent of the country’s land is dry. Unpredictable rainfall and frequent droughts make it impossible for farmers to depend on rain-fed agriculture, making an irrigation system necessary, according to a release. SGT’s irrigation system is solar powered, requiring batteries and manned operation to continue efficient operation. This results in elevated operating and maintenance costs and obstacles when there is cloudy weather.

The KTP will power ‘smart sensors’ and ‘control systems’ with a hybrid source of solar and wind energy to automatically supply the correct measurement of water for each crop and maintain soil moisture levels for increased crop yields.

Muhammed Imran, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering and lauded renewable energy systems researcher, will lead the Aston University team. Tabbi Wilberforce Awotwe, mechanical engineering and design lecturer and sustainable energy systems and optimization approaches researcher, will support Imran.

“We are delighted to design the hybrid solar and wind energy system for this smart irrigation system, which will have a positive impact on primary crop production, increase the availability of safe and healthy foods and improve the welfare of farmers and their families in rural Kenya,” commented Imran.

University of Nairobi’s Ayub Gitau, agricultural engineer and associate professor and dean for the School of Engineering, and George Kamucha, senior lecturer and chairman of the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering, will join the collaboration.

“The project will bring together Aston University’s expertise in hybrid energy, the University of Nairobi’s expertise in irrigation systems and our expertise in system integration and solar energy to develop a market leading irrigation system with increased reliability and low operating and maintenance costs,” said Badr Shariff, managing director at Solargen Technologies.