Out of the entire human population, one in nine suffer from hunger. 98% of those suffering from starvation live in underdeveloped countries. Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America suffer from the most extreme malnutrition. These are among the most drought-stricken areas in the world, which puts severe limitations on growing local produce.
We already produce enough food to feed every living human, but starvation remains a big issue for humanity. With one child dying every 10 seconds from hunger, we need to find an urgent solution to an unnecessary tragedy.
Transporting food is costly and has dramatic consequences for both human health and the environment. Producing local produce reduces the cost of the food, and it is more sustainable for the environment. But how can food be produced in areas like Kenya, where the land is parched and water is scarce?
A group of technology and agriculture experts wanted to solve this issue. They banded together and created SunCulture, a start-up with a mission to tackle the problems faced by farmers in developing nations. SunCulture wanted to eradicate world hunger by harnessing the power of the sun to boost crop production. But how could SunCulture yield an incredible increase in crops every year?
What Is Solar Powered Drip Irrigation?
SunCulture created the “AgroSolar Irrigation Kit,” which is a solar powered drip irrigation system. The kit uses solar power to pull water from any source — including lakes, rivers, wells, or boreholes. Electricity is replaced by solar energy to power the water pump. In desolate areas where starvation is rife, there’s rarely any electricity to rely on and batteries are expensive, even if you could find one in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s a strong correlation between the world’s poorest areas and proximity to the equator. The equator is where sunlight is the strongest, making it a perfect location for solar based energy. It’s also where water and food are most in demand, as the sizzling rays of the sun also create intense droughts, which decimate farmlands.
That brings us back to solar powered drip irrigation. The water is stored in an above-ground tank, and it flows through a filtration system before reaching the crops.
The results are nothing short of amazing. SunCulture has reported a 300% increase in crops among farmers using the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit. Farmers can make up to $30,000 from one acre of land just by using the irrigation system. And because it depends on solar energy — of which there is an abundance — the farm becomes a sustainable entity which can deliver food to the world’s most arid regions.
How It Could Solve World Hunger
A lack of water is a fundamental problem for agriculture in developing regions. By using a self-sustaining water pump, farmers can grow crops in areas that were previously barren.
Drip irrigation works by using a small, controlled amount of water to constantly drip on the roots of crops. By using only a fraction of water, the roots absorb it quicker, and the water doesn’t evaporate — meaning that no water is wasted in the process.
As previously mentioned, transporting food is not a sustainable solution to world hunger. By growing and selling food locally, emissions are slashed — and locals can purchase affordable produce. In poor areas, this is a real solution to an epidemic of malnutrition.
Farmers can make a living off selling their products, and local villagers will have a provider of food. What’s more, solar power can do more for people in need than provide crops. It can also power water wells, schools, and much more.
How It’s Doing So Far
Currently, the SunCulture kits are boosting crops in Kenya. Farmers have reported a huge upswing in the production of produce, in addition to saving money by switching from petroleum- and diesel-based irrigation to solar powered technology.
The kits currently sell for the equivalent of $384. Farmers can save $10,000 a year by switching to solar over fuel. According to SunCulture, 60% of the African continent is suitable for drip irrigation farming. However, only 6% has the facilities to do it. That leaves over 2 billion unirrigated areas. With one in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa suffering from malnutrition, solar powered irrigation is a tangible solution. The downside is the initial cost. For many people in Africa, $384 is more money than they’ll see in a lifetime.
But for the farmers who do have access to SunCulture kits, the results are unparalleled. SunCulture sold their first kit in 2013, so the future for solar power in developing nations looks brighter than ever.