Illuminum Greenhouses constructs affordable greenhouses and nethouses equipped with drip irrigation kits fitted with solar-powered sensors to improve water conservation and enable the Internet of Things penetrate and reach the base of pyramid farmers. Our goal is to minimise water wastage while collecting data on water irrigated while allowing these farmers to remotely control and operate their farm from wherever they are using their mobile phones through a simple text message.
We have made new partners whom together we have developed version 3.0 which is able to upload all the data on soil temperature, soil moisture levels, ambient temperature and most importantly the amount of water irrigated. We have also introduced GPS coordinates for our system to allow us to map real-time where our farmers are and then tie this to the data that we receive on our cloud.
How does your innovation work?
The innovation solution is simple, automated drip irrigation with sensor technology. The sensor is a solar powered device that monitors temperature, humidity, soil moisture and regulates water through drip lines using a mobile phone. The farmer can open and close the irrigation system as well as query and get alerts on the status of the greenhouse regarding temperature, humidity and soil moisture by simply sending a message to the sensor located in the greenhouse or open field from anywhere and any time of day. This results in enhanced monitoring and care of the plants on the farm as well as water conservation. The system has also provides automatic alert through a message sent on exceeded parameters that require correction. The innovation stands out from the rest due to application of sensors to conserve water in farming and is affordable by smallholder farmers. The innovation is urgently required contribute to food production for the growing population with limited water available.
What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?
We have made progress by forming partnerships with donor entities such as USADF that have funded us to demonstrate our innovation to smallholder farmers in Kenya. Together we have set up demo plots around this farmers and used them as training centres to allow farmers learn and witness first hand the advantages of using this technology. This way we expose more farmers to the technology and educate the market allowing faster adoption. The next phase would be having a financial service provider to partner with us and finance our sensors to reduce the capital costs for our farmers to acquire the system. They can then begin paying back these loans as we monitor their yield and track their production using the system. We hope to tie the data on production to creating a credit worthiness for this farmers as most financial institutions do not loan farmers due to lack of a credit rating.
We are keen to combine the sensors and our greenhouses and nethouses so that we may sell a smart structure that not only protects farmers from pests and diseases but also increases their efficiency and reduces their cost of water due to the presence of sensors. This attracts more farmers to our structures enabling it to be our competitive edge and a value add to farmers. NGO's that provide farmers with agricultural equipment such as greenhouses or nethouses prefer our innovation installed in their structures as it allows them to track production and water irrigated therefore assisting them to remotely monitor this projects and ensure success while the data is helpful for them to provide KPIs for their project. Mobile operators see our innovation as a revenue stream under the internet of things portfolio that allows them to grow their service base from relying on voice and data. A value proposition Safaricom Kenya appreciates and is keen to explore. Using their sim cards in our system allows them to gain more income from the communication between the farmers and the sensors. Partnership for scaling up adoption of the innovation is between Action Against Hunger (AAH), a non-government organisation working with rural communities in the arid and semi-arid region of Kenya. AAH core business is the treatment and prevention of undernutrition, delivered through three traditional sectors of intervention: Nutrition, Food Security and Livelihoods, and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene. Key transversal approaches are Disaster Risk Reduction and Nutrition Security. We have also taken up partnerships with Local County Governments under the strategy of BOT-Build Operate and Transfer that has seen us join partnerships with Kiambu County. Other potential partners include established State development authorities supporting communal farming through irrigation for the poor rural communities, the NIB and KVDA.