to school until the field has water. It affects
communities quite drastically,” she says.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…
In the years Bom spent trying to tackle this
problem, he and his colleagues at Practica
tried a number of technologies before ultimately settling on photovoltaic panels to
power the fly wheel pump. They first considered a hot air engine, but rejected the idea
when they realized they would not be able
to generate the amount of heat required for
it to be cost-effective for farmers. It also
was not very efficient.
They also considered a glycerine-powered
engine. The rough prototype worked by
heating the liquid compound in the sun. The
expanding and contracting liquid generated energy that could be used to drive the
engine powering the water pump. But the
team felt that the technology would be too
inefficient to consider moving forward with
Bom and the Practica engineers finally
decided to experiment with a steam-powered
solar design. They assembled thermal
collector reflective strips into what looked
like a large satellite dish. The thermal
strips concentrated solar energy towards a
boiler that produced steam, and the steam
then powered the engine attached to the
This iteration of the pump worked, but it
had a few critical problems. Building enough
heat to boil water was inefficient, but using
an agent with a lower boiling point, like
pentane, was potentially dangerous because
of the risk of overheating—as Bom and his
barn found out. The pump was also too
heavy to be moved from field to field, so it
could not be shared within a community.
The team tinkered with the prototype for
several years and took it for field testing in
Ethiopia in 2009 and 2013. But momentum
slowed. That is, until the markets gave
Bom and his team a boost in 2014, when
the price for photovoltaic solar panels
dropped dramatically. Futurepump and
Practica then scrapped the idea of steam
“In March that year, I took another look at
the prices of PV solar panels and found that
they had dropped to the point that a steam
pump could not really compete on price
anymore,” Bom says. Once that decision had
been made, they had a new prototype ready
for testing within a month.
SET TLING ON SOLAR
When the first version of the Sunflower hit
the market, it was different from the other
solar pumps that were available. For one, it
was priced and proportioned for much smaller
farms than other solar pump technologies.
Bom claims it was also more efficient.
“Most of the other systems on the
market are bulkier, less efficient and much
more expensive,” he says.
Part of the reason the Sunflower is
lower-cost—and weight—is because it is
made largely from plastic molded parts.
But it also has unique design features that
enable it to maximize efficiency. The pump
can lift water from a depth of 7. 5 meters,
whether that water is clean, dirty or sandy.
FIG 1: Sample farm plot suitable for the SunFlower pump
THE SUNFLOWER PUMP
IS DESIGNED FOR
0.25-HEC TARE PLOT
CULTIVATE FARMS OF
80% OF FOOD
IN ASIA AND AFRICA