Pune engineer’s solar-powered crop irrigator covered by MIT Technology Review

Pune-based Padmakar Kelkar has developed a solar-powered crop irrigator that can be a huge boon for farmers in these times of failing monsoons and 14-hour rural power cuts.

I had no idea what pivot irrigation is, so I looked it up in wikipedia, and to save you the trouble, I’ve copied the relevant paragraph here:

Center-pivot irrigation (sometimes called central pivot irrigation), also called circle irrigation, is a method of crop irrigation in which equipment rotates around a pivot. Central pivot irrigation is a form of overhead (sprinkler) irrigation consisting of several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminium) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle. The outside set of wheels sets the master pace for the rotation (typically once every three days). The inner sets of wheels are mounted at hubs between two segments and use angle sensors to detect when the bend at the joint exceeds a certain threshold, and thus, the wheels should be rotated to keep the segments aligned. Centre pivots are typically less than 500m in length (circle radius) with the most common size being the standard 1/4 mile machine (400 m). To achieve uniform application, centre pivots require a continuously variable emitter flow rate across the radius of the machine. Nozzle sizes are smallest at the inner spans to achieve low flow rates and increase with distance from the pivot point.

MIT’s Technology Review (India Edition) covered this a couple of weeks back (the same article also appeared as a featured innovation in DARE magazine). Kelkar’s technology was one of the featured innovations in the IITB-Alumni Association’s Innovations conference in 2008 that happens every year in Pune. (By the way, Innovations 2010 is happening in a couple of weeks – you should consider attending).

The TechReview article points out the advantages of this irrigator:

The solar panels charge the battery, and this in turn runs the machine when there is no sun. “We have run the machine 19 hours continuously without solar energy at all,” says Kelkar. The use of solar panels could be a boon for farmers in those states that get ample sunlight but not enough electricity.

Other advantages include water savings of about 30-50 percent over other pivots, zero land erosion, 30-50 percent more yield, higher return on investment, and minimum labor requirements. Compared to the drip irrigation, Kelkar’s pivot is more cost-effective. “Drip irrigation may cost around Rs 35,000 an acre, whereas my machine costs around Rs 45,000 an acre. But the cost in case of drip irrigation includes laying it out in the field every time and taking it out once it gets damaged, and you may have to spend another 15 percent every year. On a long-term basis, the cost of my machine comes out to be much less,” he adds.

Having already spent 20-25 lakhs of his own money in developing the technology, Kelkar is now looking for funding to start commercial production. One of the sources he is considering is the Government of India’s Technopreneurship Promotion Programme (TePP). (PuneTech had covered TePP about an year back.

In his efforts at finding funding, he is being helped by Pune’s Venture Center. You can see all of our coverage of Venture Center’s activities here. Thanks to @kaushikgala for tipping us. Also, you can follow MIT Technology Review’s India Edition here.

8 thoughts on “Pune engineer’s solar-powered crop irrigator covered by MIT Technology Review

  1. This type of technology adoption will bring a lot of benefits to large population of India.

  2. First of all congrtaulations to Er.Kelkar for developing and fabricationg solar powered center pivot machine in India.

    Many of you know that the center pivot sprinkler machine has been in use in the world, especially, in USA and many European countries since 1950. Since then the technology has under gone numerous modification/improvements, basically to reduce energy use, improve water application efficiency, automation, and cost reduction. In USA, for example, CP shares 50% of the total sprinkler irrigated area (12 million ha) and is being increasingly used in countries like Brazil, Canada, Spain, and even in South Africa, Iran, and China. Recently, an US company has developed small CPs( one or two spans) for using in small scale agriculture. Some such systems have been installed in Pakistan. So the Center pivot (rotating or linear) is not new to the world. Drop tubes for lowering the spray pressure and adjust as per crop height have been used widely (LEPA)

    The innovative feature in Kelkar’s CP is the use of Solar power for operating the machine. In India, we really need solar operated pumps to operate our millions ( and increasing) of water pumps to cope with the inreasing energy shortage. The crucial issue is still the high cost of solar cells. Thanks to the dynamic research thrust in US and other countries to reduce the cost and also to improve energy conversion efficiency.

    I suggest that some Agril. University in Maharashtra ( 4)should come forward to test the machine for its commercial use by farmers ( like cost comparision, energy and water saving, operational problems/ maintence needs, etc.). If it is really advantageous, I am sure some Indian Manufacturers like Jain Irrigation can take up its large scale/ commercial manufacturing.

    I am a great supporter of the CP and sincerely wish that it should be used by our Indian farmers.

  3. Congratulation to Mr Kelkar for his innovative Solar powered Central Pivot Machine in India.
    In present situation of Energy and Water Crises this Machine would be a rewarding solution for all farmers having farms more than 25 acers and above. In fact New corporates which intend to enter in the field of large scale farming or cooperative farming may seriously think about such innovative and cost effective Machine for optimised product output.
    Due to it`s cost effectiveness compaired to imported Machines,improved power and water efficiency, I am confident that these Machine`s may generate good international business opportinutis in western countries like USA & Europe.
    I wish all him all success!

  4. CenterPivot is a great technology that has been used around the world (except India) and is not new. Its about time that India get its. This technology is also available in India now. Check out


    I am looking into buying from irridyne for my development as it seems to be available now. Will keep you posted.

    I hope kelkar and irridyne can make this product an main stream agriculture product for India.

  5. D Veera

    Thanks for the pointer. I have gone through Irridyne website. The material published by the innovator Mr.Dakshamoorthy is extra-ordinary, and is most required for India at this point of time. Also came to know a lot of information how agriculture should make its future steps towards its destiny in India.

    Irridyne not only dicusses about just agriculture but also provides information for venturist to develop a self sustainable agriculture farming.

    I also came to know that this innovator has gained appreciation from our former President of India Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam for his dedication to India’s future in Agriculture and Environment.


    Please go through the following site by the same innovator, which has tonnes of info. on water saving, energy, environment, modern techniques for distributed power generation (the need of the hour) for sustainable agriculture. He has invested over 2 decades in this area. He is also providing complete solution and support for many NRIs and Indians who are willing to get into Agriculture.


    I guess people like Mr. Dakshnamoorthy need to be recognized by Indian government, if we need to move in the right direction.

  6. Congrates to mr . Kelkar for advance action. I think before that India has to introduce and increase the use of Central pivoted system. We are using water at very low efficiency for irrigation. Before going to solutions for on farm efficiency there are challenges for canal and distribution system water flow efficiencies.
    The use of solar pumps is the much immediate challenge for well irrigation in drought prone areas,where hardly electricity is available and Deisel pumps and fuel is unaffordable to marginal farmers .

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