Automated solar irrigation project using GSM technology

Harnessing solar tech for irrigation with a GSM-based regulation system implemented using PIM. Saving capital & using renewable energy

Photo of Sudarshan Rangarajan
12 17

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $100k - $250k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 100 - 250

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • India

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

India: Mehsana,Becharaji


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Marginal farms are far from the source, rely on diesel generators for irrigation, it's not just harmful to the environment but also expensive. Per hour cost of diesel generator irrigation is Rs150-200 per farmer which they pay to a 3rd party as they find it expensive to set up their own system and pipeline. Diesel spill and loud vibration also renders the soil infertile. Water sharing dispute is common among the farmers and leads to disharmony in the communities.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We formed a farmer's group and first got them together to agree and participate. We involved them in the implementation of the system. The water collection from a canal to sump & distribution is done using solar-powered motors. Underground pipeline is set up for distribution to farms from the sump. These pipes are laid using farmer's sweat equity. Farmers using their registered mobile, recharge the automation system (akin to prepaid mobiles) and give the automation system a missed call to start water supply to their farm. The system recognizes the farmer and based on the recharge value it supplies water. A second missed call can stop the water supply and remaining amount can be used for subsequent irrigations. Manual means to operate the system also exists. Water supplied is just and equal based on the amount paid. The farmers trained, groomed and then post forming a committee with a leader, secretary etc, the maintenance of the system is handed over to them.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Each system impacts over 25-30 farmers and their families. Earlier, the cost incurred for an hour's water supply was USD 2.5, now they pay only less than USD 1 which is deposited with the farmer's group for maintenance. So far no maintenance cost has been incurred in the past year. A local dairy farmer is stationed with the plant, he maintains and secures the area. His cattle graze in the area. Cost apart, for an hour of supply at least 2-3 litres of fuel was consumed, which is now 0. With automated regulation there are no water disputes, farmers now exchange tips and help each other improve yield. Crop rotation has increased with the assured supply of water. Farming communities, government departments from across the country visit the project for inspiration. Irrigation department is happy with our work and wants us to replicate it across geography.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

For implementation, donations/grants/Corporate contributions will be utilized. For sustainability, before and as we implement, we form farmer's group/committee. The cost of irrigation is saved by more than 50% and the money collected is actually used for the maintenance of the project. Initially, there is literally no maintenance cost involved. So entire money collected over 1-2 years is saved for maintenance. Once the group is ready, the project is handed over to the committee formed for running. Our local centres monitor the progress. Long-term support is also availed from local irrigation department in terms of subsidy for water charges. 75% is from income via water supply and 25% from govt and donors/grants/corporates will be used for the sustenance of the project.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

The involvement of technology is far deeper in our project. Using solar and GSM (which is viable and available across India) we've already impacted lives of 30 farmers, our centres are already working with 10000+ farmers across Gujarat. This project is lead with the participation of the farmers, their sweat for implementation and money for sustenance and it grooms them to work in harmony. It is a community led Participatory Irrigation Management which is scalable and replicable.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

We had already implemented canal based irrigation system in Mehsana. We were discussing with the irrigation dept regarding the project and it's learnings. Right then we realized that since the canal system was implemented around a decade back, there's been a lot of technical advancement in farming technology. Farmers have existing water pipelines which are currently supplied water via a diesel generator powered pump, it just needs to be connected to solar powered motors. Thus the idea of bringing about Solar+GSM idea was penned down and implemented.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Social media


Join the conversation:

Photo of Samir Vinchurkar

This is a wonderful way for fair distribution of water and demotivates electricity theft too. Best wishes

View all comments