Turning on the tap with aQysta’s ‘Barsha Pump’
Climate-KIC start-up aQysta B.V. harnesses the power of flowing water to provide sustainable pumping solutions for small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) specifically targeting irrigation solutions for farmers.
The ‘Barsha Pump’ -Nepalese for ‘Rain Pump’- is a stand-alone product which requires no external source of energy but a flowing stream of water. The patented modular structure allows water to be scooped up and pumped towards a location up to 3 km inland, making it an ideal solution for farmers situated near rivers and canals that require continuous access to water for irrigation.
The Barsha Pump is the more sustainable and economical alternative to other irrigation solutions such as diesel- and solar-powered pumping. While the initial investment of diesel powered pumps is low, it induces operating and maintenance costs in the form of constant repairs and re-fueling. Solar pumps, on the other hand, require a large initial investment and access to trained personnel if repairs are needed. The simple design of aQysta’s Barsha pump induces virtually no operating or maintenance costs and is ‘cheap’ in comparison to its alternatives.
From ideation to acceleration
The idea of the pump originated two and a half years ago and started off as a student project honored by several prizes such as the Philips Innovation Award, Be. Project Award and the DOW sustainability award. It was during the ready to startup programme at incubator YES!Delft, where aQysta’s founders first met and developed the idea of the pump into a viable business case. From there the team applied to the Climate-KIC Accelerator to further develop their business in which they were accepted in October 2012.
The Climate-KIC Accelerator “inspired us to think on a larger scale and to approach a global market” says CFO Pratap Thapa (NPL). Pratap co-founded aQysta in the summer of 2013 together with two –at the time- other students: CEO Fred Henny (Netherlands) and COO Lennart Budelmann (Germany) just before graduating from TU Delft. Since then the founding team was complemented by product designer Tim Elfering (Netherlands) and mechanical engineer Jaime Michavila (Spain), resulting in a multidisciplinary and multi-national team of five; working hard to bring aQysta’s solution to market. Additionally the team collaborated with Dr. Wim Uijttewaal in testing and optimizing the pumping mechanism and made testing facilities accessible for further product development. This collaboration resulted in being granted the first stage Valorization Grant of STW in 2013.
Diving into the Technology
The self-supporting modular structure of the Barsha Pump is patent pending since October 2013 and is viewed as one of the key parts of their invention. The patent protects the modular structure which creates a high entry-barrier for other potential market entrants. First, it results in a cost-effective, simple and automatable manufacturing process that cannot be pursued with deviant product architectures because they require more parts, a complex assembly and are therefore more expensive and not of standardized quality. Secondly, the modular structure patented by aQysta allows for a unique way of dimensioning the body of the pump. This allows for a simultaneous increase of pumping output and pressure. All of these competitive advantages cannot be obtained by other pump designs. The pumping body is not limited to a hydro-powered propulsion and can be, in the long run, be adopted to leapfrog in the development of new product lines such as wind or solar pumps with an identical modular body.
Swimming in the Market for Water Pumps
The Barsha Pump’s only requirement of being close to a flowing water source makes it ideal for irrigation of small- and mid-sized farms often located close to rivers and canals. The total global market potential is hard to calculate but is estimated using three perspectives: The area of land belonging to small farms that are irrigated from flowing surface water, hydropower potential for the pump that can be used for lift irrigation, and the number of small scale farms that can potentially be irrigated by the Barsha Pump. Using these perspectives aQysta calculated the global market for the pump being several billion euros and is expected to grow even further due to increasing -fuel prices, population, -commercial farming & mechanization and the effects of climate change demanding more sustainable solutions.
The aQysta team visited Nepal and Ecuador to get a better understanding of the context in which the Barsha Pump is being deployed. During these visits aQysta spoke to farmers as well as top-level private- governmental- and non-governmental stakeholders and organizations. Where they collected numerous letters of intent confirming the existence of the market.
The decision was made to limit the number of pilot projects to a maximum of ten due to a combination of time and resource constraints and the fact aQysta is still in the ‘testing’ phase of their product. Pilot projects are selected based on the level of experience to be gained, therefore the aim is to incorporate as much variety in the pilots as possible. The first 10 projects are scheduled for the summer of 2014. Another 40 orders are to be realized by the end of 2014 which are to be manufactured using a standardized production process.
The first customers are selected based on their potential for scale-up. Only strategically selected organizations which have experience in the distribution and marketing of agricultural technologies are considered. This allows activities to be focused on the delivery of the pump to the partner while at the same time creating end-user demand. After obtaining foothold in the foreign market aQysta aims to expand its activities by providing professional pumping solutions that use a standardized design enabling quick and easy repairs and replacements. This is also one of the key values that were identified during interviews; customers value professionalism much higher than non-commercial ‘make-shift’ products.
Current & Future activities
aQysta has developed several working prototypes that are used for demonstration, testing and pitching activities. First small scale prototypes were developed to serve as a proof-of-concept, from which eventually a full scale prototype was constructed to be used in TU Delfts testing facility and helped calculate the optimal design. The size of the pump is carefully selected considering cost, efficiency, transport and capacity calculations. The pumps size is limited so that it remains manageable for ‘regular’ logistic operations. At this moment a second half-scale prototype serves to validate the mathematical model and to demonstrate to stakeholders what the final product will look like.
The future is looking bright for aQysta as it has received numerous letters of intent and orders for pilot projects. After successfully completing the first ten pilot projects, aQysta expects to have gained enough experience to make informed decisions regarding the direction of its future activities. However, with the high capital investment required to set-up the standardized production process aQysta is still looking for investors. With a pending patent, it will only take time before large scale standardized production is started, and with the team already exploring additional market opportunities aQysta is looking to soon enter the global market.
Contact: Pratap Thapa
Address: Molengraaffsingel 12-14, 2629JD Delft
Phone: +31 (0)6 36118228
- Netherlands – Fred Henny (Co-founder & CEO)
- Germany – Lennart Budelmann (Co-founder & COO)
- Nepal – Pratap Thapa (Co-Founder & CFO)
- Netherlands – Tim Elfering (Product Designer)
- Spain – Jaime Michavila (Engineer & Business Developer)