Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Loughborough University

Solar-powered micro-tractors for sub-Saharan Africa 

Agriculture & Energy

How could the technology enable greater financial stability for farmers across the region?

Spotted: Many African countries struggle with tough, infertile soils that are challenging to cultivate with hand tools. Deep Bed Farming, a technique enabling deeper root growth and higher crop yields, offers a solution. London’s Loughborough University has created the Aftrak Project to revolutionise agriculture in Africa, aiming to empower farmers by introducing a solar-powered micro-tractor designed for deep bed farming.

The Aftrak system relies on a 15-kilowatt solar microgrid to fuel the Aftrak e-tractor, which has its own built-in 200-watt panel and can be used to make Deep Bed Farming much more accessible. According to the Aftrak team, by making Deep Bed Farming easier, the e-tractor can triple crop yield and boost smallholder revenue twelvefold. Instead of needing to buy expensive tractor fuel, farmers can instead use some of the extra revenue to continually purchase domestic energy from the solar array, creating a self-sustaining decentralised energy system.

Video source Loughborough University

Talking about the project, Dr Jonathan Wilson, Aftrak’s Project Lead at Loughborough University, explains: “Aftrak is proud to bring an innovative solution to Africa’s smallholder farmers who play a critical role in the continent’s food and energy security, and economic growth. By providing them with access to reliable, sustainable energy and advanced agricultural tools, we hope to transform their lives, their communities, and the future of agriculture in Africa.”

Beyond Loughborough University, the Aftrak project also involves other organisations across the UK, US, and Malawi, including Tiyeni UK, Tiyeni Malawi, the Consortium for Battery Innovation, and Varta.

Having been announced as a finalist for the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy and already received $20,000 (around €18,800) in funding, Aftrak is waiting for the winner to be announced next month, which could see the project win the $1 million Grand Prize (around €940,000).

Springwise has previously spotted other green tractor innovations, from a tractor powered by livestock manure to an autonomous tractor promising to make farming more efficient.

Written By: Georgia King

Email: j.g.wilson@lboro.ac.uk

Website: lboro.ac.uk/aftrak

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