mSol

mSol provides reliable and affordable irrigation for struggling farmers across Kenya by drastically cutting the cost of drilling boreholes.

Photo of Isabelle Seidenberg
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Date You Started Your Project

01/14/2020

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Low-resource farmers, like those in Kenya, lack access to water and struggle to irrigate their farms. Many resort to rainwater collection but this has become unreliable as climate change makes weather unpredictable. As an alternative to rainwater, farmers look to wells. But with current drilling options being either too pricey or unreliable, wells are not feasible for many farmers. Unable to grow and sell crops, farmers can barely make ends meet.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We plan to help Kenyan farmers by offering a drilling service that meets the financial, agricultural, and mobile needs of farmers everywhere. Many drills and drill services (such as mechanized or manual drilling) are too expensive for farmers. mSol is developing a drilling service built around a novel drill that allows for a much lower cost but still delivers a high quality well. The mSol patentable drill consists of reusable and relatively inexpensive parts, allowing us to offer our drilling service at 10% the fixed cost of current drilling methods. mSol’s drill can also dig to a depth of 50m, reaching into the naturally refilling aquifers in Kenya, and creating a reliable water source. Another major issue that mSol solves is that current drill methods are difficult to use in remote areas. This new design can be loaded into the back of a pickup truck to reach a wider market of farmers. Even if our trucks cannot reach all the way to a location, each part is light enough to be carried individually and collectively by a drill team. mSol and the mSol drill brings irrigation to the vast majority of farmers who are currently forced to go without.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

We have prototyped, researched, and developed a drilling service that can efficiently drill 50m into the ground to extract water. We have utilized many forms of technology, engineering, and math to get to our final product and are still continuing to make positive adjustments today. Our drill utilizes a method called reverse circulation, a proven efficient form of drilling that has been used in the mining industry for years, to dig into the ground. Reverse circulation utilizes pressure gradients to push air and water into the hole as it’s created, causing the soil, sediments and excess water to be pumped up to the surface, while the hole extends deep into the ground. Furthermore, we created the drill with sophisticated material and design for the functionality of the drill to be cost-effective, lightweight, and easy to transport. This allows our service to access even the most remote locations of Kenya.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

mSol’s drilling technology was created in collaboration with the organization One Million Wells. One million wells was created with the intention of digging a million wells for underprivileged communities all across the world. The founder of the drill is beyond the age of retirement and has looked to us to take over the development of the drill and its services. As students, we have worked hard to build mSol from the ground up, working closely with farmers and agents in Kenya. We have put our heart and soul into mSol’s success and the success of our farmers.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

Why we are stepping up to be Changemakers.

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

Since mSol’s inception, we have developed a working drill and drilling process, prototyped a possible business model, and done various forms of customer discovery and outreach. We have spoken to over 750 farmers in Kenya to determine demand and interest and also communicated with our many connections in Kenya to help us expand our customer base and test our technology. In less than one year of work, we have our first three commercial boreholes being drilled this month.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

mSol’s drill consists of reusable parts and only requires 3 people to drill, allowing us to offer our service at a lower price than other drilling competitors. We can drill a depth of 50m, which reaches the aquifers, creating a reliable water source for farmers. Other drills that reach aquifers consist of heavy drilling machinery. We are able to load mSol’s drill components, with each part light enough to be carried individually, into a truck and reach remote locations. mSol offers a drilling service that reliably meets the irrigation needs of farmers at an affordable price.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

In the last three months, we focused our time on outreach and testing. We have further developed our drill technology, drilling service, and business model. After reaching out to various Kenyan farmers, drilling companies, small agri-business owners, and on-the-ground contacts in Kenya, we effectively determined a market price for our drill that both ensures the sustainability of mSol and future success in customer relations. After communicating with struggling farmers, we have also solidified a need for our service. Furthermore, we determined that offering a water pump in addition to our drilling service would be beneficial for both mSol and farmers. All the while, we have been test-running our drill technology to iron out any misconceptions and gather accurate data.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

mSol has big plans for the future. Since we know our drill works and we have done sizable customer outreach, we have plans to launch and test this venture officially in Kenya this summer. We want to gather as much testing data as possible and start acquiring a customer base. To do this, we have plans to work with our on-the-ground contacts in Kenya and create teams to drill as many boreholes as possible. During drilling, we plan to explore opportunities in our current business model by gathering data to determine what could be improved upon. Later, we would like to see if we can expand our business to not just farmers. To help as many people in need as possible, we would require more drills, drill teams, and resources.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

We started this project through the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at Penn State University. HESE is a learning and entrepreneurship program that unites students and faculty in rigorous research, design, and launch of tech-based enterprises in low-income countries. Through HESE, we involve many students in mSol by the use of presentations, discussions, and projects, and we look forward to bringing our journey to students of all ages both here and in Kenya.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We are currently partnering with various contacts, farmers, and business owners in Kenya to help us test our drill and business prototypes. We are also reaching out to various people on-the-ground in Kenya to partner and meet potential customers for boreholes. We are also discussing working with another student-run start-up called Shambatek that specializes in pumps.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Through new contacts and advertising, we would emphasize the large market opportunity for mSol. mSol’s service requires low human and financial capital. When this is paired with our low operating costs, we predict that mSol will be able to grow as a company. Furthermore, we would share our many conversations with Kenyan farmers who view mSol as the way to save either their own farm or others’ and are eagerly awaiting launch.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Mentors/advisors

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Marketing Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

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Spam
Photo of Benjamin Burlovic
Team

This seems very well thought out. I'm excited to see were this idea ends up

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