A solar powered irrigation pump for under $100

The sun is a powerful resource for countries in the tropics. We at The Imagination Factory, are developing an innovative solution to bring affordable and effective irrigation to sub-Saharan Africa using this resource.

The difference irrigation makes for Kenyan farmers_The Imagination Factory solar irrigation project

This image was taken during a trip to Kenya early 2018. The field on the left is owned by a farmer who could afford some irrigation, on the right is a farmer’s field who could not. You can see the difference for yourself and this is what we want to change.

Zero CO2 emissions

Common irrigation methods in Africa are either expensive to own, like diesel fuelled pumps, or require significant manual labour to run such as a treadle pump. Our solar thermal irrigation pump produces zero CO2 emissions and requires no manual labour to operate. 

By removing the need for diesel fuel ongoing costs are kept low and CO2 emissions are zero, both a huge benefit for the farmer and community. But equally importantly, by removing the need for manpower to operate a mechanical pump throughout the day, a farmer can be using his time elsewhere on the land or children can be in education, instead of needed on the farm to work the pump. 

Our solution

By concentrating the abundant free solar energy with our collector, we generate green steam to drive a condensing steam pump. 

This sun-to-pump system can be used to access local groundwater and wells with minimal cost compared with existing options.

Irrigation using this pump will increase yield. 

Imagination Factory steam pump

Re-imagining 200 year old technology

Access to this type of freely available water, at this low cost, would normally be out of reach for millions of farmers. These pumps were popular for over 200 years up to the 1930’s due to their simplicity and ease of use. By modernising these designs, we are creating a system that can run in a variety of challenging conditions and locations.

A modernized victorian vacuum steam pump

Travelling far and wide

The solar thermal team has travelled across US, Africa and Europe to find a robust solution for under $100, that can provide the power to irrigate an acre of land. 

In Kenya 2018, we meet with farmers (pictured) and investigated what challenges lie ahead for supply and distribution.


With initial funding from the Department for International Development and Innovate UK (DFID), to design our low cost irrigation pump, we were able to develop our design through several proof of concept rigs and test in California (2017), Kenya (2018) and Spain (2018). We hope to be in a position to manufacture our pump in 2020 and distribute through our local networks in Africa that year. 

We continue to seek grant funding to develop the pump and welcome investors interested in working with us on taking this project to the next level.

Future developments

But this is just the start of the story. We have a development roadmap that will see more innovative uses for the technology such as off grid power generation and refrigeration to help reduce food waste in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Imagination Factory has over two decades of experience in the design and development of products using cradle to cradle methods and materials. 

If you want to know more, please get in touch and join us on our journey.


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