New African

Harvesting the sun twice – a bright new future for farming

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An hour and a half away from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, an agricultur­al project with great promise is making headway.

A collaborat­ion between the University of Sheffield, World Agroforest­ry and the Latia Agripreneu­rship Institute (LAI), funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of its Global Challenges Programme, the innovative project shows early signs of success.

Trialled in the semi-arid county of Kajiado, it uses a technique called agrivoltai­cs – the use of solar panels to produce energy, with the bonus of doubling up to create an advantageo­us growing environmen­t too. Ideal for areas with long sunshine hours, high temperatur­es and low rainfall, the initial project has used 180 solar panels of 345 watts each, raised 3 metres from the ground, to allow farmers to tend the crops underneath.

The method has now produced a superior quality and size of crop compared to normal processes. If it can be rolled out across other areas of Africa it could be the answer to the lack of energy and food insecuriti­es that prevail in many areas.

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