By Julio P. Yap Jr.
In most agricultural areas of the Philippines, particularly those in the countryside, the availability of irrigation water depends mostly on the monsoon rains or power needed to operate water pumps.
If there is a lack of electricity, diesel-operated water pumps are usually used to pump water for irrigation purposes. However, the use of diesel-powered engines has many disadvantages, like the ever-increasing prices of the fuel, which will directly affect the economic success of the farmers. Then there is its adverse effect on the environment.
In order to attain food security, there is the need to irrigate farmlands economically, efficiently, and sustainably.
These are the primary reasons why the R.U. Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation (RUFMSC) developed an innovative portable solar-powered irrigation system to help farmers and increase their productivity.
According to Engineer Fred Lista, a solar power expert and consultant of RUFMSC, their portable solar-powered irrigation system is designed to help farmers in the remote areas to irrigate their farmlands, which will eventually increase their production during the dry months.
This will result in the increase of the farmers’ incomes, and enable them to save on fuel costs while freeing them from the inconvenience of hauling bulky and heavy diesel-powered water pumps to their farmlands. With RUFMSC’s portable solar-powered irrigation system, the farmers will no longer have the burden of hauling water from distant sources, or carrying and transporting diesel-driven water pumps.
Lista says that one example of RUFMSC’s portable solar-powered irrigation modules is composed of four photovoltaic (PV) panels which are mounted on two separate units made of specially-fabricated and sturdy frames.
The metal frames are incorporated on movable platforms that are built with wheels for easier mobility, even in remote areas.
The photovoltaic module, which has a capacity of at least 1,080 watts, comes with a submersible pump that can generate at least 13 cubic meters of water per hour.
During an average day, during daylight, the portable irrigation system can have a flow rate at least 130 cubic meters of water—good enough to irrigate more than two hectares of agricultural land. The extracted water can then be brought, via a pipeline, to as far as 1,400 meters away from the water source.
Water from rivers, lakes, wells, ponds, and streams can be used for irrigation purposes.
Lista says that RUFMSC’s innovative solar-powered irrigation system, which is installed on a reinforced trailer, can be towed easily by a hand-tractor, tricycle, or even pulled manually because the module is light and easy to transport.
In the field, the unit can be set up and operational within minutes, depending of course on the source of water, and area to be irrigated. Since the unit is solar-powered, it needs no fuel, no connection to an electrical source, and no other infrastructure is needed to operate the irrigation system.
He added that the complete system has been designed to perform well even in the remotest agricultural areas. “The cost-effective and sustainable portable solar-powered irrigation system can provide water to wherever it is needed most.”
The system is designed and manufactured using high-quality materials to ensure longer and trouble-free performance with low maintenance requirements.
Aside from providing irrigation water, the system can also be used for supplying water to hard-to-reach communities, which the villagers can use to venture into swine raising and vegetable gardening.
Solar-powered irrigation facilities can enable the farmers to shift from expensive and pollution-causing diesel-powered pumps towards sustainable and efficient water sources. After all, solar-powered irrigation systems are becoming more reliable, are much cheaper to operate, and are cleaner than diesel fuel systems.
The utilization of solar-powered irrigation can enhance individual and village-level actions in the promotion and implementation of sustainable farming to attain food and environmental security.
Innovations like this one could create local opportunities and viable enterprises towards attaining self-reliant communities.
The development of the solar-powered irrigation system is one of the efforts of RU Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation towards the protection and conservation of the environment and safety of people and other living organisms.
Environment-friendly facilities will make agricultural communities better places to live, while at the same time helping farmers become more productive and self-reliant.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2018 issue.