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Making it Rain & Rain - Water-from-Air Systems

Imagine if drought-stricken countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya were really, really rich water-wise atmospherically year-round.

Photo of Fernando Bourrellier
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Savia Atmospheric Fountains & Rivers

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Our team is composed of the leading Water-from-Air consulting firm worldwide, Atmoswater Research, and MetaMeta Research, which has been working on water governance in frontier developments - Savia being the startup. We´ll be locally-supported in Kenya by the Global Resilience Partnership. Roland Wahlgren is the principal of Atmoswater Research, being personally author of the book, Water-from-Air: Quick Guide. Roland is a long-standing veteran in the industry since 1984, being frequently quoted on the industry’s leading articles. Roland personally validated The Discovery of Ice being Atmospheric back in early 2016. Frank van Steenbergen from MetaMeta Research has worked on water governance projects for the likes of USAID, The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, FAO, UNESCO, IFAD, UNDP, GEF and DFID. With headquarters in Amsterdam & local offices in Ethiopia, Frank has ample local African knowledge & know-how, having also organized a masterclass on Fog Harvesting just last year.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

Atmoswater, https://www.atmoswater.com/ MetaMeta, http://metameta.nl/ GRP, http://www.globalresiliencepartnership.org/ Savia, n/a

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Barcelona

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Spain

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Kenya

What country is your selected Place located in?

Kenya

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We’ve picked Africa instead of Asia, as Africa itself still stands as the most water-scarce continent worldwide – where we’re most needed for starters. Sub-Saharan Africa only averages 6% irrigated fields, versus over 30% in Asia – 20% in Europe.

Instead, Water-from-Air directly benefits over 50% of Africa with year-round highs - as the highs are equator-based. There’s simply no drilling required in Water-from-Air – we never, ever deplete unlike water wells – being in fact a 100% renewable water source.

Out of a list of some 10 African countries where we can have the greatest impact, we’ve chosen Kenya as our place – Nigeria & Ethiopia also being top choices too. Kenya itself is blessed with January-December atmospheric highs, being just as needy as their neighboring countries & quite drought-prone itself, while being one of the more affluent & stable countries in Africa. Nairobi is also the African headquarters of our accelerator the Global Resilience Partnership.

Sales of Water-from-Air systems does carry capital costs & electricity costs. Hence, the more affluent the host country is, the bigger our success will be in turn. In fact, we do measure market penetration based on how many cars a host country has – the more cars it has, the more systems it will be able to purchase as well. As Kenya is the regional economic leader, our success & impact will be much greater in Kenya than in other neighboring countries.

We’ll also be locally-supported by the Global Resilience Partnership right in Nairobi, Kenya. The Global Resilience Partnership – originally convened by the Rockefeller Foundation & USAID in 2014 - has been personally focusing on the horn of Africa & the Sahel region within Africa. Hence, we’ll benefit from their local support, local knowledge, and local connections - while they’ll be meeting part of their mandate on water security & food security.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Kenya is the world’s 47th largest country, lying between 5º N & 5ºS. From its coast on the Indian Ocean, the low plains rise to the central highlands. The highlands are bisected by the Great Rift Valley. Mount Kenya, at 5.199 meters, is the continent’s second tallest peak after Mount Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania.

Kenya is a lower-income country, its economy being the largest in eastern & central Africa – one of the main reasons why we chose Kenya. Kenya has a population of over 47 million inhabitants, unfortunately, over 40% of them living below the poverty line.

Agriculture is still Kenya’s most important sector, with its capital Nairobi servings as a major regional commercial hub. The service industry, with tourism at its forefront, is also a major contributor to Kenya’s economy. Industry & manufacturing is the smallest sector.

Kenya was a former protectorate of the British Empire. Following its independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president. Kenya’s constitution was updated in 2010, following its 1963 independence constitution, becoming a presidential representative democratic republic then.

Kenya is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and many other international organizations. Unfortunately, corruption, civil unrest, mass executions, and other civil dilemmas have plagued Kenya’s history.

At over 550.000 square kilometers, it is well past your recommended size of max. 100.000 square kilometers. Yet, Water-from-Air does reach everywhere & anywhere within Kenya, there being no real reason not to target the entire country instead of just 1 popular city.

Kenya’s climate varies from tropical along the coast, to temperate inland, and to arid in the northern parts of the country. While elevation does reduce Water-from-Air productivity significantly, Nairobi at 1.600 meters of height still performs much better than Madrid for example - Kenya’s climate is simply perfect for Water-from-Air.  With annual max. averages of over 30º by the coast & north, Water-from-Air will thrive year-round.

In mid-2011, two consecutive missed rainy seasons precipitated the worst drought in East Africa in over 60 years – even closing schools across many regions. The crisis was over by early 2012, thanks to coordinated relief efforts & aid agencies – but many more droughts are expected.

Kenya also has some of the largest biodiversity in the world. From wildebeest, to elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and lions & leopards. Kenya boasts over 60 national parks & game reserves, photo safaris being the cash crop of tourism.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

550000

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

47000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Kenya is still largely agriculture-based, as most of Africa & developing nations. Agriculture alone provides over 70% of all jobs, while providing over 25% of GDP in return – contributing over 50% of all of Kenya´s exports. Kenya is best known for its tea, coffee, and cut flowers & hoticulture exports.

Kenya is a very water-scarce country – over 80% of its lands being arid & semi-arid. Just 10% of Kenya´s highlands has suffcient rainfall to allow for rain-fed agriculture – in turn, making over 70% of all its production. Kenya´s semi-arid regions produce just 20% of all their produce, while their arid regions only produce the remaining 10% of the production. Thanks to Water-from-Air, we can make the much-larger & unyielding semi-arid & arid regions as thriving as the highlands.

Hence, Kenya´s agriculture & prosperity is simply deadlocked by water scarcity – unfortunately, its arid & semi-arid regions unable to thrive without adequate irrigation. Kenya rates well below the Sub-Saharan average of 6% irrigaion fields, being just 2% irrigated only – versus 37% in Asia. Approximately, 10 million Kenyans suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition, food aid being the norm in ever-occurring drought years.

Kenya has three distinct irrigation schemes. Small to medium farmers being the most common & dominant, holding small parcels of 0.2-3 hectares, buy yielding over 70% of all agricultural production & local offering. They cover 47.000 hectares, representing 42% of total irrigation. Through our first round of pilots to 12 meters, we´ll already be able to meet 100% of their needs.

It also has 7 centrally managed irrigation schemes, for a total area of 18.000 hectares. These are managed by the National Irrigation Board and account for 18% of irrigated land area in Kenya. Large-scale private commercial farms cover 45,000 hectares, while accounting for 40% of irrigated land. They utilize high technology and produce high-value crops for the export market. In their case, we’ll be able to meet their needs on our second round of pilots to 30-50 meters.

Over 75% of Kenyans live in rural areas, and over 40% of the population lives in poverty. In rural areas, only about 61% of the population has access to improved water sources, and approximately 29% to improved sanitation only. Agriculture remains the backbone of rural communities today & for the foreseeable future, employing over 80% of the rural population. Water-from-Air does grant 100% rural coverage – being one of the most requested issues.

Malnutrition & stunting keeps being a major impediment too. Stunting has declined from 35% in 2008, to 26% in 2014 – yet many areas of serious malnutrition remain. Drought & unreliable rainfall are expected to significantly keep constraining agriculture, as in the 2009-2011 droughts, as nearly all agricultural production is rain-fed, just 2% irrigated fields only.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Water-from-Air is literally king all across Africa & Kenya – as the atmospheric highs are equator-based, and Water-from-Air directly benefits over 50% of Africa with year-round highs. Thanks to their much warmer & humid climate, Water-from-Air is able to work day & night, January through December, at maximum efficiency – rivaling rivers.

As over 80% of Kenya’s lands are arid & semi-arid, only Water-from-Air has the ample reserves needed to lift those deeply water-scarce regions out of poverty & into prosperous agricultural production instead. Indeed, across developing nations, there’s no other way but the agriculture way, and there’s no other way but waters right from the clouds – we do have virtually unlimited reserves, much larger than rivers.

Water-from-Air also helps close on the great divide of urban vs. rural – where the neediest people live & work. There’s simply no village & small town that we don’t give full coverage to. Water-from-Air readily grants 100% universal coverage & 100% rural coverage – lack of rural coverage & summer-time lows making the 2 largest requests internationally, and we grant both. We can even work without any existing infrastructure & electricity too.

Water-from-Air tech has simply remained off-limits to agriculture & developing nations – even to agriculture in developed nations – remaining as small luxury items for developed nations only. We’re the first ones to make it easy & affordable now – while easily reaching to 12 meters of height. Above all, there’s simply no drilling required in Water-from-Air – unlike water wells.

Not only can we reach over 3-fold savings on both capital costs & electricity costs – much further savings are available locally with local materials & work force. Further, our condensers can be purchased alone at just 20% of costs, sourcing the ice locally instead. We’ll even rent our systems to help in its early adoption – high pricing remaining the industry’s dismay today.

Through our first round of pilots to 12 meters (40 feet), of working height, we’ll be able to meet well over 90% of the overall market demand – already meeting 100% of the needs of the more common smallholder farmers. We do expect to meet 100% of the demand on our second round of pilots to 30-50 meters (100-150 feet), of height – taking place on the second year of the project.

Farming & agriculture will remain being the single most important sector in Kenya & developing nations – all through 2050 & beyond – employing well over 50% of the population today & then. Only Water-from-Air systems & water wells are at reach to needy farmers & towns – only Water-from-Air counts with virtually unlimited reserves, 100% renewable reserves. Agriculture even becomes much more crucial all across the rural landscape – where most live for starters.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Imagine if countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya were really, really rich water-wise atmospherically year-round. Imagine if Water-from-Air was king all across Africa, providing its highs in over 50% of Africa – the single most water-deprived continent worldwide. Not only can we make Kenya water-secure & water-rich, we can do exactly the same all across Africa & worldwide too as a matter of fact.

Agriculture is still the backbone of most developing economies on jobs, GDP, and profitable exports – in Kenya alone representing well over 70% of the work force. In turn, agriculture is a safe-heaven for the most marginalized, people without studies & advanced education – and women & youth too. Clearly, we’re empowering Kenya’s most important sector after all, agriculture – key to most of the population & the economy as well

Only water wells & Water-from-Air systems are at reach to farmers & small towns. Dams & desalination are instead very large undertakings, quickly reaching hundreds of millions & even billions on larger projects – requiring national budget. Instead, Water-from-Air can be as small as hundreds of liters per day, and as large as tons per day – being in fact a 100% renewable water source. 

Only Water-from-Air is capable of making Kenya’s 80% drylands livable & profitable – as thriving & prosperous as its water-rich highlands. Only Water-from-Air is able to meet both the needs of the smallest farms & medium-sized farms – the larger ones on our second round of pilots. Only Water-from-Air counts with virtually unlimited reserves still left untapped, all other water sources being saturated & over-exploited both in Kenya & worldwide. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Imagine if we could make it rain & rain, wherever & whenever we wanted – even in harsh & rural Africa. Quite surprisingly, our atmosphere already contains 6 times as much waters as all our rivers combined - today remaining largely untapped. Our project is The Discovery of Ice being Atmospheric – nature’s very own solution – formally validated in early 2016.

Not only can we make it rain & rain – day & night – Water-from-Air doesn’t even require heavy machinery & drilling altogether. In fact, Water-from-Air benefits developing nations mainly - including over 50% of Africa & Indonesia’s 17.000 islands – as the atmospheric highs are equator-based. Water-from-Air grants 100% universal coverage & 100% rural coverage – which along with summer-time lows – make up the 2 largest outstanding requests internationally.

Today’s leading Water-from-Air systems – Atmospheric Water Generators – have simply remained too expensive & too high-tech in their early commercialization these last decades. Large commercial units quickly reaching hundreds of thousands, while requiring ample energy. Newer desiccant-based systems – being instead passive systems – have just managed 5%-10% market share only due to decreased performance, much lower yields, and still high pricing too.

Instead, we’ve managed to literally break all the benchmarks on capital costs & electricity costs as well – well over 75% on both. In fact, whereas today’s leading systems can only provide 100% automatic solutions, we’re first at introducing 100% manual systems & semi-automatic systems. Whereas today’s systems are 100% metal, we’re first at using common & affordable, wood & plastics by default, glass being our high-end material.

Electricity usage has also been reduced by orders of magnitude, thanks to the extra long-life of ice & just affordable Styrofoam boxes. All in all, a very reduced load of ice, of just under 2 kilos, is able to run a Home Fountain 1 meter tall for over 24 hours – just amounting to under 100 grams of ice per hour in all. While we’re still finalizing these semi-automatic systems designs, we can already confirm over 3-5-fold energy savings.

Height has also been quite limited today due to the high costs involved with the systems – just barely reaching to 3 meters of height only. Instead, we’ll be easily reaching all the way to 12 meters of height, and in fact much more on our second round of pilots. Our sky-high 12 meters tall systems still use affordable Styrofoam boxes as engines, and still use affordable wood & plastics by default.

Lastly, but most important to so many especially in Kenya – our systems also make it possible to just purchase the condensers alone, at just 20% of costs, sourcing the ice locally instead every few days. While not financially advantageous on the long run, the entire systems can be purchased for just pennies on the dollar – high pricing remaining the industry’s main barrier.

We rely upon common chest freezers, water-chillers, and affordable Styrofoam boxes for our cooling instead – being mature technologies already. Of all the combinations possible, only Styrofoam boxes & long-lived ice carry both the lowest capital costs & electricity costs as well.

We’ve chosen Kenya as our place, as it represents where we’ll have the greatest impact & where we’ll be the most successful in return. Kenya remains as needy as its neighboring countries, yet Kenya stands as the regional leader economically – while also benefiting from a stable government. Hence, our solutions will sell much better in Kenya than elsewhere. Also, locally we count with the full support of the Global Resilience Partnership right in Nairobi.

Agriculture is still the true backbone of Kenya – and for the foreseeable future – as all across Africa & developing nations. In fact, well over 70% of Kenya’s population works in agriculture, which provides over 25% of its GDP & over 50% of all exports. Agriculture is also key to rural populations – over 75% of Kenyans live rurally – providing over 80% of all rural jobs too. There’s no other way but the agriculture way – and there’s no other way but waters from the air.

Over 80% of Kenya’s lands are arid & semi-arid – unable to thrive just on rain-fed agriculture. Just 10% of Kenya’s highlands produce over 70% of all its production, as it enjoys frequent rain. Kenya even scores well below the Sub-Saharan average of 6% irrigated fields – at just 2% only – while Asia enjoys 37%. Further, just 61% of Kenya’s rural population has access to an improved water source, just 29% to improved sanitation after all.

In their average yearly productivity, Kenya simply lies right on the atmospheric highs. Garissa rates at 1.05 & Mombasa at 1.23 – above 1.00 being Excellent. Kisumu rates at 0.86, and Nairobi just at 0.70 – being good & fair - as both are well 1.000 meters of elevation. In comparison, New York & Madrid just rate at 0.49, just poor, due to winter setting.

MAIN MILESTONES

We’re currently counting on 2 waves of pilots to fully advance & evolve these brand-new, ice & chilled-waters based systems – and thanks to your ample generosity, we’ll be able to accomplish both rounds within the first 2 years in Kenya. We’ll be reaching to 12 meters (40 feet), of height in this first round of pilots – meeting well over 90% of the market’s demand & all smallholders.

We’ll be introducing three different sizes at first to suit everyone’s needs. From Home Fountains 1 meter tall condensing 5-50 liters/day, to our Agriculture Fountains 6 meters tall, harvesting from hundreds of liters to 5 tons/day – and culminating with our City Fountains 12 meters tall, condensing well over 10-30 tons/day.

Market entry & sales being our next largest milestone post-pilots. While crowdfunding is the preferred & most impactful market entry strategy in developed nations, it won’t be in Kenya. Instead, local marketing & media, local exhibitions, word-of-mouth, and local presence being our main market entry strategies. While crowdfunding would require a $50.000 budget, we trust these other avenues will just require a $20.000 budget instead.

We would expect $300.000-$500.000 if we crowdfunded across developed nations – but only expecting $100.000- $150.00 in Kenya. While it’ll be a slow start compounded by their lower purchasing power, we should be able to triple our sales after our second round of pilots. We’ll be able to give 100% coverage within Kenya – reaching all cities & regions, and leaving absolutely no one behind.

In the second round of pilots, we’ll be reaching to 30-50 meters (100-150 feet), altogether – leading the industry on height & affordability for the foreseeable future. These sky-high City Fountains will then gives us 100% market coverage – including today’s largest cities with millions of inhabitants. The second round won’t be that hard either, as the engines remain the same – and its physical build is all above ground.

Currently, the 100% manual systems are over 90% ready-to-go, while the semi-automatic systems are over 80% ready-to-go. As part of the first round of pilots, we’ll also be duplicating the chest freezer with Arduino run freezers, at much lower prices. We have already duplicated the water-chillers with Styrofoam boxes & ice at a fraction of costs.

THEMES

Our Water-from-Air project meets the 3 critical Sustainable Development Goals 6, 2, and 15 - hence, our main contributions are to the Environment, Diets, Economics, and Technology themes. Regarding the Environment & Diets Themes, only Water-from-Air can make green & thriving Kenya’s 80% drylands, only Water-from-Air can double & triple Kenya’s low 2% irrigation coverage. Agricultural production can resume all year long now.

Regarding the Economics & Technology themes, Water-from-Air tech has simple remained off limits to agriculture & developing nations so far. Instead, we bring forth rock-bottom prices & much lower electricity consumption too – the condensers can be purchased alone now at just 20% of costs. Regarding Economics, we’re helping Kenya’s most important sector after all – agriculture – key to the general population & GDP growth.

Lastly, regarding the 2 missing themes on Culture & Policy, our contributions are relatively smaller. Yet, 100% rural coverage remains as one of the largest requests worldwide, helping the ones who need it the most on the Culture Theme. Regarding Policy, Water-from-Air requires no permitting & licensing, being a 100% renewable source. We do expect much support & help from governments in realizing Water-from-Air.

Regarding the selection criteria, as ours is a solution rather than a vision, ours is a physical realization rather than a set of interdependencies. We’re blessed by helping in Kenya’s most important sector of agriculture – accomplishing systems-level changes - but we’re not focusing on the system itself. Hence, we’ve already created the change itself.

Regarding Transformative Potential, only Water-from-Air can easily double & triple today’s low 2% irrigation coverage – to reach even 20% in 10-15 years. Only Water-from-Air can make the semi-arid lands & arid lands as profitable & prosperous as the highlands. In fact, a single country such as Kenya could count with millions of Water-from-Air systems working 24x7x365 – rivaling rivers.

Lastly, regarding Community Rooted- we’re meeting everyone’s most basic need – clean & safe waters right from thin air. While our project hasn’t evolved as a community-centered project, we look forward to piloting right where’s most needed for starters thank to your generosity. Regarding Inspiration – again, we’re meeting everyone’s daily needs first & foremost. Only 61% of Kenyans rurally have an improved water source, ample clean & safe waters being the very dream of most Kenyans.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Colleague

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Photo of Itika Gupta
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Hi Fernando Bourrellier  Great to see you joining the Prize!
We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.
You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit: http://bit.ly/2X4ZxQk

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.