Tata Center team invents the first solar-powered water pump tailored to the irrigation needs of millions of small-acreage farmers in the Ganges River basin.
The Ganges River basin of eastern India is some of the most fertile farmland in the world. With shallow groundwater and rich soil, the area is instrumental in India’s agricultural ecosystem. However, all is not well for the roughly 480 million people who rely on the basin for their livelihood.
“Eastern India is one of the lowest agricultural productivity areas in the country, and it should be much higher, because it has excellent water resources,” says Katherine Taylor, graduate student in mechanical engineering and a fellow at the Tata Center for Technology and Design, part of the MIT Energy Initiative.
Taylor is part of an MIT team developing a solar-powered pump designed to the specifications of small-acreage farmers in eastern India, many of whom currently use costly, inefficient diesel pumps to irrigate their crops, or have no pumping capacity at all.
The project grew out of the MIT course 2.760 (Global Engineering), where Taylor met Kevin Simon, another Tata Fellow and a graduate student in systems engineering, and Marcos Esparza, a senior in mechanical engineering. Led by Assistant Professor Amos Winter, “we explored pump design, and a good idea emerged. In true Tata Center spirit, we ran with it.”
At a time when Indian agriculture is edging toward crisis, Taylor, Simon, and Esparza believe their pump can contribute to higher yields and greater profits for these small farmers.