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AB Sugar announces winning idea for irrigation water loss

Samuel Mukisa and Yvonne Nalinnya, who studied civil engineering at Makerere university and have a keen interest in irrigation, have been announced as the winners of AB Sugars Innovate Irrigation challenge

Innovate Irrigation was an online event held by AB Sugar during June 2019, in partnership with WaterAid and the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge, to help stimulate new ideas to solve the increasing threat posed by the depletion of water resources

On announcing the winners, Katharine Teague, Head of Advocacy from AB Sugar said, “We are delighted with the winning idea and the potential to introduce the concept following the results of the feasibility study. We are continually taking steps to conserve water in line with our 2030 sustainability commitments and are always looking at ways to work with those within our supply chain to do so. The winning idea provides us with the opportunity to work together with our growers to put this into practice.”

“The decision to award Samuel and Yvonne with the winning idea was unanimous by our prestigious panel of judges; representing a diverse range of experience and knowledge across a multitude of industry sectors and geographies. The judges came together to review all the entries against a set criterion of relevance, feasibility, scalability, impact and measurability.”

The winning idea

Samuel and Yvonne’s idea focused on developing a smart irrigation system that would account for water used in irrigation, detect water losses in the system, plan irrigation schedules, monitor growth of crops and determine the irrigation water requirement of the crop during different growth stages. It could be connected into current processes, managed from afar and integrated with new technologies available in remote locations; allowing estate managers and smallholder farmers to understand, analyse and act on the information provided through the acquired data.

What stood out to the judges during the review stage was that it also prioritised the need for all parties to continually adapt behaviour around water usage given its status as a depleting resource across the globe, and to contribute actively towards the fight against climate change. All data captured within the system would be available in real-time; while training needed for farmers and estate staff to build up the capability of using such systems was also considered. Push notifications to users would enable action to take place as and when needed whilst ongoing water audits would monitor action taken against output provided.

Two of the judges commented on the selection

Jim McClelland, Sustainable Futurist, SustMeme remarked, “It’s affordable, implementable at scale and would enable the all-important data points to be collated. When there is insufficient data, resource efficiency is lost, therefore, this idea warranted being the winner due to its critical data collection and direct impact on enhanced performance.”

Ian Bamford, commercial director, Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge said, “The need to encourage recurrent behaviour change from all those involved from the offset stood out; it’s about continuing to build trust with users. Overtime, this will ensure a better chance of success when introducing other new technologies to meet the changing needs of the climate in less developed countries or rural locations.”