Almost two decades ago, inventor Kong Pharitt started to focus his work on transfering the energy of the sun into electricity to power a whole variety of equipment for increasing demand and to distribute it in Cambodia.
For many years, Kong, the founder of Local Capacity Builder (LOCAB) organization and general director for I.M.B Cambodia, has mainly been associated with electrical bicycles made in Cambodia but became increasingly famous in new fields. Next to solar powered cars, his company’s sun energy farming equipment for crop cultivation has become widely used over the last couple of years.
Post Plus met Parith at his office near the University of Humanities and Sociology last week, where he told us that “in recent years, we started getting busy balancing all of our recent projects, such as creating solar cars and motorcycles and solar panels that provide power in rural homes that are used to run lamps, fans, TVs, mobile phones and laptops.” But, he added that they were also working on big projects that use solar power to power farming equipment for both large and small farms.
Pharitt believes that the shortage of electricity in Camboida, especially in rural areas, has hindered innovation, because, generally speaking, access to electricity is the key factor for economic growth.
Not wanting to rely on conventional sources of energy for agriculture, and seeing a lack of rural development, the inventor started to place his hope in alternative energy. “Since 2008, I.M.B Cambodia and LOCAB tried to create sun powered irrigation systems for rice fields, vegetables, fruits and other crops,” Parith said. About two years ago their development efforts bore fruit. They finally produced solar irrigation systems with components imported from factories in Germany, Japan, Australia and Taiwan.
Because the sun shines on Cambodia with certainty, solar power provided returns on the investment quickly. Pharitt explained that one big solar panel costs $250 to purchase and install, but owners no longer had to spend money on conventional electricity or petrol.
Pharitt added that people living on islands or in remote areas without connection to the electrical grid would especially benefit from solar power. Rather than being entirely reliant on fuel run generators.
Giving another example of how the investment could pay off and lead to higher yields he explained that “a farmer has to spend between $2,800 and $3,000 to install solar powered water pumps on one hectare of land. The pump can pump five cubic metres of water an hour from depths of up to five metres. With a running time of eight to10 hours daily, farmers have enough water to plant their crops all year long and could have three harvests a year.”
Pharitt said that, in order to make use of the pumps effectively, farmers had to understand the methods of proper water storage in basins, ponds or canals from where it was especially easy to pump out the water without the use of much energy.
Because farmers often can not afford the initial cost for the of installing solar powered irrigation systems, Pharitt’s company, I.M.B, provides customers payment plan with installments of up to three years through Acleda Bank. Revealing who his clients were, Pharitt told Post Plus: “Our installment customers range from Kampot pepper plantation owners and fruit farmers in remote provinces to cattle producers near Phnom Penh.”
Besides focussing on business, I.M.B and LOCAB donated solar energy systems to rural hospitals and schools, as well as to poor people to help alleviate poverty.