In India, almost 10 million diesel-powered irrigation pumps have allowed small farmers to water their crops year round, to feed their families and wring a modest living from their small plots of land. But diesel, as most fossil fuels today, has become a liability. Its price rises every year, making it ever harder to pay for irrigation. In a financial squeeze, farmers are forced to abandon their land and move to city slums to look for other work. Meanwhile, diesel engine emissions accelerate global warming, and extreme climate events like super floods and mega droughts further threaten farmers’ fragile livelihoods. 

Pumps powered by clean renewable energy, such as solar pumps, could solve both the economic and environmental dilemma: they don’t emit greenhouse gases, and their fuel is free.

But renewable-powered pumps have remained a marginal technology. There is currently no such pump available on the market that is tailored specifically to the needs of the Indian small farmer, with an unsubsidized price low enough to compete with the diesel pumps and be adopted widely. Besides being powered by clean energy, such a pump should meet the following requirements to be successful:

Portable (theft prevention, use by water merchants, and easy transport for sale in local markets)

Robust and locally serviceable

Cheap enough to be able to compete

Sufficient pumping performance to water a typical small plot 

Designing such a pump is difficult. But it is not impossible.


We are calling designers, tinkerers, inventors, students of all fields -- anyone who is interested and feels they can contribute something useful -- from all over the world, to join forces in this challenge.

The Energy [R]evolution: Clean Pumping challenge will be open for submissions from September 3rd to November 15th. A jury of renowned experts will accompany the challenge and help solvers shape their ideas.

Working with other great people like you to make this world a better place rocks, but in addition participants stand the chance of winning prizes with a total value of more than 30,000 Euros (in cash, prizes and contracts).

But the project doesn’t end here. Because just a design is not enough. What is also needed is more knowledge amongst small farmers about - and trust in - a new kind of pump, as well as an effective marketing and business model. Our business booster program, to be launched after the challenge to support the winning designs, will aim to provide both. If you’d like to know more about the project, please contact us directly or sign up for the newsletter to get regular updates on the project.

Together, we can design a pump that rises to the task, bring it to market quickly, and boost its adoption by the farmer community.

Find out more about the Renewable Energy campaign in India here.

Project Jury

Awarded ideas