How solar energy is revolutionising microfarming

a solar powered micro farm

A solar powered 2 hectare farm that arrives in a shipping container. Pic: Farm-out-of-a-box

The advantages of solar energy in rural communities is well documented. Particularly those who are located in more remote parts of the land and countries where access to the grid is difficult, if not impossible.

For isolated communities in developing countries face enormous problems, both financial and logistical, to access centralised energy. To remedy this, aid organisations now supply people with solar panels for energy, lighting and heating. However this week saw news of a partnership between solar inverter leader SMA and practical aid group Farm from a Box that promises to take solar energy and micro-farming to a new level.

SMA — the world’s largest supplier of inverters — is not only supplying the PV system but has also designed the 3kW off-grid PV system included in the Farm from a Box unit.

“SMA is proud to partner with a company whose goal is to bring independence to communities around the globe by providing the tools they need to sustain themselves, both nutritionally and financially,” said Marko Wittich, SMA executive vice president of sales for the Americas region.

Wittich went on to explain that their partner Farm from a Box isn’t a charitable organisation. Rather it “… empowers and strengthens communities with sustainable solutions, powered by renewable energy.”

According to the 21st October SMA press release, each Farm from a Box is built from a modified shipping container and contains the following PV system:

  • 10 high-efficiency solar modules.
  • SMA Sunny Island 6048-US off-grid inverter.
  • SMA Sunny Boy 3000TL-US inverter with Secure Power Supply.
  • SMA Sunny WebBox remote monitoring solution.
  • SMA Smartformer transformer and distribution box.
  • Deep-cycle batteries for energy storage.

This is used to power lights, mobile chargers, ICT and data mapping systems, pumps for drip irrigation and a water purification system.Pic: Farm-out-of-a-box

Each Farm from a Box can serve 150-plus people, one hectare of land (2.47 acres) and a wide range of crops, including grains, vegetables and fruits, according to SMA. Ideal for humanitarian aid, refugee camps, post-crisis rebuilding, private-sector development, and community cooperatives, each Farm from a Box is constructed from a modified shipping container and is backed up by a 3,000-watt generator.

Microfarming is really just a new term for an old concept: that of how families and communities can survive by farming food and energy from a relatively small area. Micro farming may then be the change that is needed where traditional farming techniques with new technology have lent themselves to better support for farmers in developing countries.

The partnership between SMA inverters and the Farm from a Box self help organisation shows the crucial role that exists for solar energy in rural communities.

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