Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.
An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.
Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.
“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”