Dr. Martin Fisher, inventor of the MoneyMaker irrigation pump has won the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for sustainability for his invention. The pump, available now in three versions, has helped more than 300,000 African farmers become entrepreneurs and rise out of poverty. Fisher, through his non-profit organization KickStart, has taken an active role in helping to spread his technology to farmer/entrepreneurs in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali.
Dr. Fisher, who holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, spent several years in East Africa as a development worker, but decided that raising funds and giving them to poor Africans was not a sustainable approach to development. Instead, he founded KickStart to develop technologies to "kick-start" businesses in poor countries. His supply chain turns out to be a profitable venture for the manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, as well as the entrepreneurs using the technologies.
The Super MoneyMaker Pressure Pump is a mini-irrigation solution for the farmer with a small plot, up to a few acres of land. It can go as far as 30 feet below the surface of the pump to an underlying water source and draw water up to 46 feet above ground through pressurization. The above ground distance is very important to irrigate hilly land, as it means the water can be sprayed from the source for up to forty-six feet.
Operation of the pump is achieved by a person using his or her arms, legs, and body weight to rock the machine. There are three models of the MoneyMaker currently available: The Super MoneyMaker Pressure Pump, the most powerful model that sells for $100; the MoneyMaker Plus Pump, a smaller scale leg-operated pump that sells for $35; and a MoneyMaker Hip Pump that sells for $33. (Unfortunately, the MoneyMaker pumps are only sold in Africa right now.)
The $100,000 Sustainability Award is made by Lemelson-MIT annually to the inventor who has demonstrated ways to advance economic opportunity and community well-being in developed or developing countries without harming the natural environment.
Jerome Lemelson, who with his wife Dorothy, founded the Lemelson Foundation, was one of the most prolific inventors in history, having received 550 patents during his 40 years of inventing. He contributed to many fields, from aeronautical engineering to electronic vision/scanning to toys and games. He fought hard for the rights of independent inventors, for several of his patents were infringed by big companies.
Kickstart has designed other technologies for the developing world, including an Oilseed Press to extract pure oil from seed. The resulting oil is ready for sale once pressed and the remaining "seedcake" is a great high protein supplement for animals.