This project aims to make productive use of wind energy so that rural farmers in isolated areas of Patagonia can gain access to water and energy, and generate higher income by growing and selling horticultural farm products.
Story: Growing Strawberries on Dry Land
“We believe that small wind energy can become a catalyser of development for isolated rural farmers and communities in Patagonia, and beyond”,
says Guillermo Pleitavino from Fundación 500RPM. The successful start of the project “Productive use of wind in Argentina” proves him right.
Patagonia, a huge semi-arid region in the south of Argentina, is a challenging place to operate fruitful farming. But its winds are among the best in the world. As many small rural farmers in the Argentinian steppe struggle with problems like access to water, sufficient supply of energy and a low income, the resource that has the potential to fulfill the needs for productive use was long abandoned: wind energy. This is why WISIONS initiative focuses on the use of wind energy and its impact on rural livelihoods in this core project, together with our local partners.
In cooperation with Fundación 500RPM, who have long standing experience in implementing holistic wind energy systems, and INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology Argentina) we developed three projects for productive use of wind energy in the context of horticultural production.
The pilot installation consists of a 350 W wind turbine which operates a water pump. This helps to collect water in reservoirs, from where a drip irrigation system supplies an area of 2500m2 arable land to cultivate field crops on. In the first season, the local farmer family decided to mainly grow strawberries to sell at regional markets. Concentrating on a single crop has the benefit of allowing greater harvests, achieving better prices and higher margins.
Capacities & Impacts
The installation of the wind turbines is accompanied by technical training on how to construct and maintain the machines, so that the families can run the new system independently. The first workshops were hosted at two regional technical schools where local students could benefit from the training and construction.
The first results of the efforts showed last November, when the first ripe and tasty “wind strawberries” could be harvested and sold. Besides that, we obtained the following aggregated impacts so far:
- Three installed 350W wind turbines, contributing to the savings of 16.420 litres of fuel and 45 tons of CO2 (eq) of GHG emissions
- The pumping system and efficient use of water generated 45% of water savings in horticultural production, saving 50 USD/month in fuel for irrigation and increasing profits by selling farm produce of 7000 USD/year
We believe that this core project has great potential for replication in windy regions, both locally, regionally and even globally, as the struggles with access to water and adding value to production in small family economies are shared by a large part of the world's rural population. Certainly, the project can serve as a role model for new horticultural projects with small rural producers who face similar obstacles (access to water and energy, low income) like the isolated farmers in Patagonia.