Kenyan solar start-up gets Microsoft financing

By George Kiongo | Wednesday, Sep 5th 2018 at 14:05
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Agsol, which makes solar-powered processing machines for farming communities that aren’t connected to the national electricity grid, has been selected for Microsoft’s third annual Airband Grant Fund.

The award is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative launched last year to extend Internet connectivity across the world.

Agsol is among three other early-stage companies selected from Africa, with the others being Mesh Power and ColdHubs from Rwanda and Nigeria, respectively.

The grant will provide financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support to help scale these businesses’ technologies, services and business models.

Digital economy

The Internet is the electricity of this century, and vital for participation in the digital economy. It empowers entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses, farmers to implement precision agriculture, doctors to improve community health, and students to do better in school and prepare for the workplace of the future.

However, only 35.2 per cent of the African population is online, which means six in 10 Africans miss out on opportunities to take advantage of and become part of the digital economy. In Kenya, despite an 89.4 per cent Internet penetration rate, a fairly large percentage of the population still has no access to the Internet.

The three African grantees are overcoming barriers to provide affordable Internet access to unconnected and underserved communities using TV white spaces (TVWS) and other promising last-mile access technologies. TVWS, especially, has the ability to be broadcast over long distances and go through barriers, extending or complementing common methods of Internet transmission, like wifi and cellular networks.

Agsol’s village-scale machines process crops, with the excess power used for lighting, and charging phones and small appliances.

The grant fund will be used to help develop and deploy these cloud-connected agro-processing machines in East Africa to increase farmers’ efficiency, make energy more accessible to off-grid farming communities and improve yields.

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