Greenpeace “A Watershed Moment in India” challenge, which was open from September 3rd, 2013, saw participation from over 1500 people across 58 countries, who created 256 designs for renewable energy powered, portable, affordable irrigation systems for small farmers in the Indian state of Bihar.
Participants uploaded their designs to a web platform, where they were viewable by the public (including other competing teams) who commented on all designs and suggested improvements, which the designers took into consideration to iterate and adapt their designs.
Solutions covered a wide spectrum of technologies, from solar PV and solar thermal to waste biogas powered designs and more exotic choices such as hydrogen/fuel cell designs. The winning designs are all renewable energy powered pumps that fit into the lifestyle and budget of India’s small-scale farmers. In the next project phase, the prototypes will be given to Bihar farmers, who will use them and then share the feedback. This feedback will then be incorporated in the design to further improve it. The optimized designs will then be showcased in a Clean Pumping Fair to manufacturers and distributors. “These pumps will create a new market segment – the clean-powered, portable, cheap pump for small farmers –as a viable alternative to expensive, dirty diesel pumps,” adds Ingo Boltz, Manager, Greenpeace Innovation Lab.
Need for such renewable irrigation systems:
In India, many small-scale farmers work in areas where the electric grid is unreliable or nonexistent. They need to pump water from the ground to irrigate their fields and the ubiquitous diesel pump is the most common choice. The machines are initially inexpensive, but the rising cost of fuel and negative side effects like air and water pollution make these pumps costly and threatening to farmers’ fragile livelihoods in the long run.
A renewable energy powered pump is a logical solution: its power source is free or low-cost and greenhouse gas emissions are minimal. But the adoption of such pumps both in India and elsewhere remains low. There is currently no pump available on the market that fully meets the needs of the Indian small farmer, with an unsubsidized price low enough to compete with the diesel pumps and be adopted widely.