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Smart container means more cash for farmers

Smart Harvest By Maureen Akinyi | August 29th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Three students from Strathmore University beat teams from around the world to win a prestigious energy solution that will aid farmers to tap into value addition. 

Raymond Kiyegga, Fredrick Amariati, Alex Osunga, were honoured by the UK government for The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. Participants were expected to come up with quality energy solutions that can aid value addition for smallholder farmers and SMEs in rural areas.

To address this, Kiyegga, Amariati and Osunga proposed Kijiji, a solar-powered container that supports value addition for rural smallholder farmers and SMEs by providing reliable solar powered energy.

The system size ranges from 15kW to 50kW, with a battery storage ranging from 4000 - 8000AH, able to power agricultural, SMEs and health applications. The system range also provides room for expansion based on changes in rural market needs. 

The Smart Harvest and Technology got a chance to engage with team on the solution and what it portends for small holder farmers.

The UK government recently announced that the three of you won an award that addresses energy needs of smallholder farmers. Fill us in on this?

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students from around the world to help accelerate energy access by innovating or redesigning affordable and high performing devices and supportive technologies for energy access.

The competition focuses on fostering innovation in the off-grid appliances sector besides helping address barriers that limit market expansion for innovations targeting the off grid sector. Furthermore, the challenge sought to forge beneficial partnerships between universities, researchers, and industry partners at a global level. 

This was the first year of the challenge that saw 78 students from nine universities in Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and the UK participate, and we are happy to have been the pioneering cohort.

The competition began in September 2019, with students submitting their final projects in April this year. The winning teams were announced at the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge Grand Final, which took place on 25 June this year.

What inspired you to apply for this challenge?

Contributing towards energy access and climate change mitigation is one thing that we all identified with, that we wanted to be a part of the solution to this global problem.

As a team, we first participated in a similar challenge, the initiate challenge, during the Africa Utility week held in South Africa in 2019 and won the competition. What role did each of you play to make this challenge a success?

The challenge lays emphasis on team experiences, which we all relate to our world today. Each of us brought in a rich and diverse set of knowledge and skills on the table.

Fredrick is an energy economist, and his role was more of supporting the team to figure out whether the solution made economic sense. Raymond is a data scientist and was very instrumental in how to handle the big data that come with operation of our innovation, I (Alex) I am an IT professional and was instrumental in the security of the data besides helping the team figure out how to incorporate online payments for the energy service. Ignatius is an electrical engineer and was instrumental in the design of the solution. Having all these specialties enabled us to put together the idea of Kijiji.

Your invention Kijiji, is a solar-powered container that supports value addition for rural smallholder farmers and SMEs by providing reliable solar powered energy. How does it work?

The system provides an avenue for off grid communities to use energy generated by the solar photovoltaic system for their economic benefit. The containerised system has an agricultural processing facility, to process agricultural produce grown in the implemented area and an entrepreneur’s hub that can support businesses like retail shops and barber shops. Depending on the demand, the system is scalable, by acquiring more Kijiji containers for other enterprises.

The system also has a health facility and a knowledge hub, to take care of other needs of the community. 

This indeed is an affordable energy solution for communities?

Yes it is. Kijiji uses existing resources to generate electricity – energy from the sun. Kijiji container comes as a complete package, with systems designed based on the needs of the community. The solution is a 40ft container that houses a 25kW array of solar panels and 6000Ah of battery. The solution makes money from selling space and electricity generated. It also supports extension of electricity to homesteads far away from the container through an uberised system of delivery of charged batteries.

What are some of the aspects of Kijiji that made it to stand out?

The scalability of the project in that it can be applied in so many off grid areas around the world. It also empowers communities because of its business model of the community finally owning it. This makes the project more sustainable.

For smallholder farmers what are some of the tangible benefits?

For them, we see additional income because with Kijiji, they are able to have better storage of their produce such as milk through refrigeration hence reduction of post-harvest losses. For communities that close early because of no light, this hub will allow them to operate beyond the conventional working hours. This essentially means that they can open longer, which we expect will result in enhance income.

Has this idea been commercialised yet? If yes what stage is it at?

We are developing a proto-type of the solution and will be fast-tracking the same to commercialisation. We are also looking for financing for the same and hopefully, someone out there interested is welcome to support this idea.

What next with this idea after this global recognition? ?

We intend to push for this agenda as far as we can, attracting more financing for the project and seeing that we can give more light and hope to rural communities. 

[email protected]  

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