SunCulture – transforming agriculture through the power of the sun

SunCulture provides smallholder farmers with the equipment, services and financing they need to succeed.

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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

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development
  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Kenya

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

SC’s strongholds in Kenya: Rift Valley, Eastern, Central and Western region. SC’s engagements in other countries: Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Malawi, S


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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

There are over 1 billion hectares of arable land in Africa, of which only ¼ million are suitable for rain-fed irrigation and only 4% are currently irrigated. Switching from rain-fed to an irrigated solution can lead to more than 10x increase in smallholder farmer (SHF) income. Although, the majority of farmland in Africa is cultivated by SHF, agricultural products and services are not tailored to their needs resulting 80% of Africa’s poorest and hungriest people being farmers.

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

SC is a one stop shop for SHF success. Our latest product, the RainMaker, is a portable, internet connected solar powered irrigation system (SPIS). At its maximum capacity (head of 100 meters) it is the cheapest SPIS on the continent. In addition to the RainMaker’s performance, we’ve also introduced a financing platform, Pay-As-You-Grow, making the RainMaker accessible to the mass market. Coupling the RainMaker’s technology and our Pay-As-You-Grow platform, we have the ability to graduate farmers up our product ladder. Our drip and mist irrigation systems are made in an easy to use plug and play style and can lead to yield increase of up to 300%. SC not only supplies SHF with products, but also the services (installation, soil sampling, after sales, agronomy support, delivery) they need in order to be successful. We believe that by being a one-stop-shop for SHF and providing them with the access to technology, information and finance, we can have a catalytic impact on their lives.

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

We give smallholder farmers the opportunity to increase their income by an average of US $10,000 annually, improve food security and health for them, their families and their communities. Furthermore, this gives them a chance to invest into education due to increased income and reduced labor requirements. Through our approach we contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions, water usage and soil depletion. CO2 emissions are reduced by replacing harmful fuel pumps with a more efficient and environmentally friendly SPIS. Drip irrigation saves about 80% of the water used in furrow irrigation and is 10x more efficient than rain fed irrigation. Additionally, SC's irrigation solution helps to prevent fertilizer and input runoff caused by bad irrigation practices. In 2017, SunCulture farmers have: * Saved 5 billion liters water * Generated 530 MWh clean electricity
 * Grown 32 million KGs of fresh fruits and vegetables * Saved 743,000 liters diesel
 * Saved $12 million

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

SC has a number of financial sponsors. The company was started with the support from friends and family, and now is proud to have a number of governments, foundations, and investors. This includes: USAID, Shell Foundation, and Microsoft. In addition to the grants, SC closed a small seed round in early 2017 from two institutional investors and seven angel investors. Through its monthly sales, SC is able to cover a significant portion of its operating expenses, but in order to ensure long-term financial sustainability, the company will need to raise debt in early 2018 and a Series A in late 2018. The Nestle grant would further strengthen our financial position and ensure that we have the ability to continue to reach rural communities and help become more productive.

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

With the RainMaker we designed the most relevant SPIS on the market compared to other irrigation solutions (higher dynamic head than other SPIS, less labor intensive than treadle pumps, portable, battery included, IoT enabled). The RainMaker also includes a Climate Smart pump controller, which automatically optimizes pump performance, enables remote monitoring and is compatible with wireless soil and weather sensors. The technology bundled with finance and services lead our customers to success.

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

Samir and Charlie, the Founders of SC have spent an extensive amount of time in rural parts of East Africa, where they saw first-hand the dependence on rain-fed agriculture and the absence on irrigation methods. Compared to Asia where 47% of arable land is irrigated under 5% is irrigated in Africa. Through a thorough analysis as to why this was, they discovered that a majority of African SHF do not have access to the electric grid and that petrol powered irrigation were too expensive for the average SHF, in addition to being environmentally harmful. Given the abundance of sun, they realized the potential to create a low-cost SPIS as an alternative. Continuously working with farmers has led to a number of innovative irrigation products, services and financing tailored to the needs of our customers.

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

  • Other

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Interesting and daring at the same time. An excellent idea that requires a lot of work and some access at the level of the governments of the targeted territories.