Smart Solar Kits With Machine Learning Take Root In Kenya

A farmer using SunCulture solar kit

Solar companies in Kenya have added machine learning within their kits, enabling them to accurately predict trends and adjust performance to ensure optimal output at all times, regardless of weather conditions.

Nairobi-based SunCulture, a solar irrigation technology company, is targeting farmers with solar irrigation pumps capable of studying the weather using built-in algorithms and optimising performance at all times.

The solar-powered kits, known as RainMaker2 with ClimateSmart, equally incorporates Internet of Things (IoT) and sends phone SMS alerts to farmers advising them to time their irrigation, based on weather patterns predicted by the smart machine.

It’s a submersible pump and was founded by American impact investor Samir Ibrahim.

“The brushless motor solar pump can pump 3,000 litres per hour in boreholes and wells as deep as 230 feet,” the company said.

With the smart solar pumps, the company seeks to tilt agricultural practices among smallholder farmers towards efficiency and boost their yields and returns. And with the machine learning component, farmers can seize control of their production patterns, without being at the mercy of weather conditions.

Futurepump is yet another solar irrigation firm in Kenya looking to boost operational efficiency through remote monitoring. Its pumps are designed in the Netherlands and built in the company’s factory in India.

Unlike SunCulture’s submersible pumps, installed inside wells to push out water, Futurepumps are surface pumps and can pump up to 1,800 litres of water per hour.

“Our pumps include our data logging system with a SIM card, which sends performance data over mobile phone networks about each individual pump. We can track the pump’s location, its daily utilisation, and electrical and mechanical technical data. All these together enable us to understand how well the pump is working and whether a service might be required,” said Futurepump sales director Brian Marsh.

“We’re able to proactively determine the condition of each solar pump, anywhere in the world. If the data tells us a rubber seal needs changing, we can send a text message to the customer suggesting she fits one of the spare seals we supplied her, or to the local distributor asking him to stop by,” he added.

UK-based Azuri Technologies, which installs pay-as-you-go solar kits for lighting and powering electronics in off-grid homes, is yet another company that has incorporated machine learning in its devices.

The company’s HomeSmart kits provide light in off-grid households every night regardless of whether there was sunshine during the day or not.

The smart kit monitors homes’ power usage and adjusts light brightness according to levels of energy stored in the battery in order to sustainably meet the customers’ daily power needs, including nighttime.

The British firm, created in the prestigious University of Cambridge, is now exploring ways in which to build Wi-Fi routers within its solar package to connect remote villages to the global internet highway.

Solar experts reckon that Kenya, like most African nations, has a high potential to generate large-scale solar energy given high radiation levels from the sun throughout the year.

SunCulture said that its solar irrigation pumps come with a climate smart lithium battery with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller that enables reliable performance in all weather conditions.

The MPPT charge controller increases the efficiency of battery charging state and keeps the voltage and current at an optimised level where the modules deliver the most juice.

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