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Esther Mugambi (left) and Joy Muntet (right).

Research Brown Bag: On Your Marks, Get Set, Innovate

Innovation, ingenuity and intelligence headlined this year’s first Research Brown Bag, held on 6th May at iLabAfrica. Second-year Electrical and Electronics Engineering students, Joy Muntet and Esther Mugambi (pictured above, right and left respectively), jumped at the opportunity to present their project in front of their peers, researchers and industry professionals.

Earlier this year, the duo took part in Kenya’s first I- teams program. The undertaking, which is spearheaded by Cambridge University and Global Equality program, is a breeding ground for young innovators. In their time with them, Muntet and Mugambi procured commercialization, communication, entrepreneurship, and technological competencies. “Participating in the Brown Bag felt like a natural segue after gaining indispensable knowledge and skills as part of I-teams,” Muntet said. “The experience with I-teams sparked an unquenchable thirst for innovation within us,” Mugambi added.

Noting the ever-growing concerns over food insecurity and erratic weather patterns, the twosome proposed a low-cost smart solar powered irrigation system that would countervail these issues. “I’m from Narok, which is a semi-arid region. Many of the farmers rely on the long and short rains to irrigate their crops. However, in the past couple of years, the seasonal cycle has become unreliable. This has had a devastating effect on their yields. We hope that our device will resolve this problem,” Muntet explained.

The system will consist of: a tank for storing water; a solar-powered pump; a series of pipes, which will be used to disseminate water across the farm; and moisture sensors to maintain the optimum water content of the soil by regulating the amount that is being pumped. Despite being students, Mugambi and Muntet are working tirelessly to ensure that their product graduates from infancy to a full-fledged irrigation system installed in the farms of thousands of Kenyans. “Although we are currently at the planning and design phase, we do not intend to linger here. Esther and I aspire to have the apparatus developed and in circulation by 2024,” Muntet revealed.

More than two centuries ago, Voltaire, a French writer, posed the question: Is there anyone so wise as to learn from the experiences of others? Indubitably, Muntet and Mugambi are. The partners’ Brown Bag presentation was evocative of an eagerness to learn. They not only fielded questions but also welcomed suggestions. “The cross-examination of our project helped enlighten us to the improvements we can make to the irrigation system to ensure it fulfils our target market’s needs. Had we not partaken in the Brown Bag, we might have remained ignorant to the refinements we can make to the product and we would likely have encountered impediments when trying to bridge the gap between lab development and market circulation,” Mugambi said.

Muntet concluded by sharing words of advice for other hopeful entrepreneurs, “You can’t wait around for the right time and right place. Sometimes you have to go out into the world and look for it. Opportunities are all around us, and it’s up to you to decide whether you’re the right person to take them up.”

This article was written by Laura Namuliro.

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