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University lecturer invents automated irrigation system that will help farmers’ water crops correctly

automated irrigation muoki

In December 2018, Benson Muoki’s automated irrigation machine that enables farmers to correctly water their plants is set to hit the Kenyan market. This is following a six months’ research that the electronic engineer conducted in 2016 that found out that farmers in four different counties were either over watering or under watering their plants.

Muoki carried out research in Nyeri, Kiambu, Mombasa and Malindi counties on challenges facing irrigation farming in these regions from March to August 2016. From the information gathered, he found out that plants in these four counties were not receiving the 30-40mm of water required by plants under irrigation as according to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

 “This automated irrigation manager prevents farmers from over watering or under watering their plants as it was the major challenge I found out during my research,’’ said Muoki.

The 21cm by 16 cm machine does not exceed 35 per cent water content distribution making it advantageous to farmers as it will avoid over flowing and under flowing of water giving the plant what is enough thus surpassing 15 per cent rain water stored in the soil profile.

The machine which goes at a cost of Sh47,000 serves one acre of land if only one type of crop is planted. This is because the root depth of the plant is usually measured and then sensors on the machine are fitted according to the root depth. One machine is fitted with two sensors that can serve both wet and socky soils.

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Benson Muoki explains how the automated irrigation system works. (Photo: Courtesy)

“The machine has two sensors at a base of 6cm deep which is the estimated measure of getting to the roots. This helps farmers to provide their crops with enough water while engaging in other duties at the machine is purely automated and operates depending on the type of setting adopted by the farmer,’’ said Muoki.

After the machine was recognized and patented by the directorate of management JKUAT in 2017, Muoki put it on several tests in September and October 2017 in Nyeri and Nairobi respectively which he says the response from farmers through emails and contacts was positive.

 The automotive irrigation machine has several advantages among them: it eliminates old methods of irrigation by allowing water to flow 6 cm deep thus reaching the roots, minimizes water usage as it has a timer which ensures only the set amount of water will be used, is easy to install due its portable size, minimizes the use of electricity by using 12VC and does not require manpower due to its automotive nature.

The 56-year-old used Sh250,000, a grant he got from JKUAT which sponsored his project to buy basic components of the machine: a timer at Sh2,500, a relay at Sh1,500, a potentiometer at Sh350 and Copper electrodes which he used to finish the design and research coordination of the machine in April 2017. The remaining amount was used in software construction of the material and body construction and component shouldering of the automated irrigation machine.

Having not trained on innovations, Muoki relied on research and his skills to come up with the invention and the write up of the machine.

“I did not undergo any training prior to the innovation. I depended on research which I often did and in-born skills,’’ said Muoki.

The electrical engineer will make a profit of 20 per cent on one piece of the machine after he introduces them to the market in December as he is still shaping them up from metallic casing to plastic casing since plastic is durable, does not rust and is cheaper to purchase than metallic.

The engineer’s main challenge is the Kenyan Economy which is on the rise necessitating the rise in the cost of raw materials. For instance, back in 2016, Muoki bought a timer at Sh2500 which is double the price in 2018 at a cost of Sh5,000.

“In 2016, I bought a relay at Sh1,500 which now goes for Sh3,000. The Kenyan economy is expensive right now, what I do is calculate the production cost and from it, I establish my selling price and profit. It has not been easy,” said Muoki.

He further says that his other main challenge is the fact that he is not an agriculture specialist and farmers keep asking him questions and advices related to farming yet he cannot give a professional advice but with the help of his colleagues: Professor John Mwibanda Wesonga, a specialist in horticulture and crop protection, sustainable agriculture and ICT and Martin Obanda, a specialist in plant bio chemistry and Enzymology, he consults them and later gets back to farmers regarding their queries.

He is assisted by two other technologists: Irungu Bernard who constructed the software of the machine and Mungai Benson who constructed the body and component shoulder.

The technologist who wishes to have his own industry in future and installs the machine farmers at no cost advices young innovators on the need to do a lot of research and consultation as nothing comes easily.

“Innovation is in somebody’s mind, if you can sit and think of something you would wish to do just go and pursue it. You will go far,” said Muoki.

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