Irrigation of the future

Irrigated crops on one of the pilot farms. Photo by Drani Julius Kizoto, Gulu Agricultural Development Company

Solar irrigation is wonderful – cheap and renewable, it can really help farmers to grow their farms. But it doesn’t solve every problem alone – many farmers still find themselves wondering how best to irrigate – for how long? What time of day? How often? 

The answers to these questions depend on your farm – the crop, soil type, local weather, water source and growth stage all affect the need for irrigation. Finding answers to these questions can take time. But is there another way?

Futurepump is excited to be working in partnership with Farm-Hand, the Gulu Agricultural Development Company, and Scene, to develop an automated irrigation system, tailored for the needs of the crop, soil type and growth stage. It also aims to be responsive to weather forecasts and farmer feedback.

By combining Futurepump solar pumps, sprinklers and Farm-Hand’s specialised irrigation scheduler, we’re trialling a system that can do your irrigation for you.

We have eight generous farmers and farmer groups who are helping us test and improve this automated irrigation system, and we were so pleased to go and meet them recently. Their expertise is essential to developing a system that works for farmers.

While testing a new technology can be full of trials and problem-solving, it’s always exciting to work on new solutions that make farmers’ lives easier.

REFRUIT project - farmer feedback
Meeting the generous farmers at our feedback workshops with Scene, Gulu Agricultural Development Company

Together we developed the plan for the control of the automated irrigation system, so that farmers are able to easily change the irrigation schedule if needed. Right now, each farmer has a Futurepump solar pump and sprinklers ready to start the trial.

With the help of SolarNow, our distributor in Uganda, we’ve trained the farmers in how to use the solar pumps and the automated irrigation system. In return, the farmers have shown us their farms, and explained the challenges the project would need to overcome.

SolarNow representative training farmers on the Futurepump SF2

One of the other great advantages of automated irrigation, which we discussed with the farmers, is that crops receive only the water they need. This is beneficial to both the crops, which can yield better quality produce, and to the water sources which do not get overused.

Through this collaboration, we hope to build an irrigation system that farmers can trust to irrigate their crops efficiently, leaving them with time to do other activities on or off the farm.

This project is funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. They fund and support science and technology ideas that grow the economy.