Pay-N-Pump 2.0 – adding storage to mobile solar irrigation systems

SVRG is carrying this InnovateUK Energy catalyst round 9 project out together with our Ugandan partners, ApTech Africa ltd, to build on the success of our original ECR7 Pay-N-Pump innovation project.

Project Overview

PAY-N-PUMP is an innovative smart digital pay-as-you-go water-pumping and irrigation solution for small scale farmers in Uganda, built in a push-cart format, developed by Aptech Africa Ltd in an Energy Catalyst 7 project, in partnership with SVRG. Despite COVID-delays, more than 65 systems have been piloted, and farmers have observed crop-yields and household-income increase by as much as 200%.

The 3 pieces of consistent feedback from customers are:

  • hours of irrigation do not match farm demand (optimum timing is dawn and dusk, when solar power is weak)
  • inability to use the system for household or institutional (eg schools, clinic, church) energy access, eg for lighting, phone charging or other new micro-entrepreneurial businesses
  • system is out of the price range of many farmers
Pay-N-Pump pushcart in the field

In this project, partners Aptech Africa and SVRG, will seek to modify the Pay-N-Pump technology to include modern, reliable Li-Ion battery storage to both enhance irrigation performance to better match market-demand, and simultaneously to make the system dual-use, so that it can both provide farm irrigation and also household or institutional energy access.

This is a considerable technical challenge, but also a consumer challenge to find a design that can optimise system performance and impact in both use-case scenarios. But success in this project would see the creation of a unique, transformative technology. At the moment, users need two separate systems for household and irrigation services. This is not only expensive, but household systems are typically small and unreliable, and hard to scale as household energy-usage increases. There is no product currently on the market that combines the two use-cases as we propose, in a PAYG business model, and which is mobile for ultimate flexibility and ability to serve different needs, and therefore that is able to create such a wide range of impacts.

Our modelling suggests that the storage-enhanced dual-use PAY-N-PUMP could increase farm yields by 250%, and provide irrigation and household energy at 70% of the cost of using two separate systems. We estimate that the two-in-one nature of this solution will at least double our market size, and consequently not only significantly increase agricultural productivity in Uganda, but also provide a novel and attractive solution for energy access in rural communities, since it transforms energy-access from a cost to a profit-making opportunity.

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