We develop our ideas on the ground, creating the tools, technologies, and services with and for the farmers who use them – right from our Nairobi Innovations Hub. Product concepts and improvements are formulated with the express purpose to enable subsistence farmers to add significant value to their existing skills and assets – to produce more and earn more money for themselves.
Design & development
Developing new cutting-edge technology is key to KickStart’s strategy to breakthrough barriers to scale irrigation across the continent. Our Product Intelligence and Development team identifies and develops opportunities for disruption, evolving our ideation for the biggest impact possible and driving a pipeline of technologies in development. For new product concepts to move into the development stage, they must offer unique value addition for farmers (with no existing alternatives) and/or significantly improve upon the affordability, efficiency, and impacts of existing products.
Designing products in Kenya
KickStart’s specialized team of engineers, designers, and technicians develop our high-impact technologies from our Nairobi Innovations Hub. Our team leads an end-to-end product development process, where they move an initial concept through customer research, establishing design criteria, CAD design, prototype production, farmer testing, and the design for manufacturability. Developing new technologies requires continuous problem-solving and creativity, and we collaborate with research institutions, technology companies, and other social enterprises to develop our innovative products to the highest standards.
KickStart works with a close community of local farmers, who advise on new designs and product iterations, and field test our prototypes, providing essential feedback and data on performance and user experience. This farmer-led design methodology informs all our R&D work and ensures any new innovations perform at the highest standards under real farm conditions. It is critical that any new products perform to the highest standards of ease-of-use and durability, under real farm conditions. Smallholders cannot afford to have their new investments break down in the field. Our Farmer Advisors help us to ensure these standards. In addition, as they comprise a diversity of voices including women and youth farmers they ensure our products are culturally and gender inclusive for all users.
KickStart works with partners and stakeholders to develop and pilot new product and service offerings. These include; new technologies like vertical gardens, well drilling, and water catchments; new training services; and new financing models that can enable millions more smallholders to access and benefit from irrigation. These innovations go through the same development processes as our direct irrigation products, including rigorous testing and evaluation by Farmer Advisors – making sure they deliver significant value and measurable impacts. The most promising innovations will be scaled-up by KickStart’s Field Innovations Team by working through partnerships, and/or as new offerings in our core program—bringing them to new farmers and geographies.
When designing for social impact, we keep the primary needs of our target group front and center. Our tools must work with – not against – the lived realities of Africa’s smallholder farmers.
Innovations currently in development
Innovative Solar Pump
For farmers looking to scale-up with zero carbon
A unique, low-cost, modular, submersible solar pump, designed to overcome common pitfalls of current solar pumps on the market—affordability, durability, portability, and maintenance requirements.
Water Efficient Vertical Gardens
For farmers with small plots and/or in drought-prone regions
A high-potential innovation for those without ample access to land, labor, and water. KickStart is piloting and testing these extremely low-cost Vertical Garden Cylinders to be used with our irrigation pumps.
Rent to Try and Buy (R2T&B)
For farmers with limited savings
This unique entrepreneur-based model enables “Irrigation Agents” to rent pumps to farmers, sell them inputs and train them to make money from irrigation. The agents earn rent and commissions, and the farmers earn enough to buy their own pumps after one season.
See the Innovations Hub in action
After both the research and design stages, our team brings ideas into tangible forms to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in all of our products.
Collecting and organizing evidence is key to our process, and informs design decisions throughout the process.
After we research, the team considers affordability, accessibility, and efficiency to approach the intended function and working look for a product before it’s built.
Step into KickStart’s Workshop and hear from our engineers.
Invest in innovations to irrigate Africa
Our programs work to sustainably change the lives of smallholder farmers across Africa. Join us.