Climate-KIC, a European-union climate innovation initiative, recently selected a jury of entrepreneurs, financiers and business people to award funding to what they felt were Europe’s best clean-tech innovations of 2014. Taking first place was Dutch startup aQysta, a Delft University of Technology spin-off company that manufactures what's known as the Barsha irrigation pump. It can reportedly boost crop yields in developing nations by up to five times, yet requires no fuel or electricity to operate.
Although the Barsha pump (Nepalese for "rain pump") is a new product, it's based on a very old design – it has its origins in ancient Egypt.
The pump itself is essentially a water wheel on a floating platform, that's moored in a nearby flowing river. The moving water rotates the wheel, that in turn utilizes a spiral mechanism to compress air. That air drives water through an attached hose and up to the fields.
It's claimed to be capable of pumping water up to a height of 25 meters (82 ft), at a maximum rate of one liter (0.26 US gal) per second. According to its designers, it has zero operating costs, only one moving part, can be built from locally-available materials, and should provide a return on investment within one year of use – for diesel-powered pumps, they claim that the figure is closer to 10 years.
Of course, it also creates no emissions.
The first Barsha pump was set up in Nepal this July, and a business is now being established there to manufacture and market the devices. Plans call for similar developments in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.