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Loughborough University's Jonathan Wilson and the Consortium for Battery Innovation's Carl Telford pose with the Milken-Motsepe prize for green energy alongside other representatives.

Loughborough University initiative wins green energy prize

A Loughborough University led initiative, which aims to bring affordable green energy and food security to communities across Africa, has won a major, global prize.

Aftrak overcame four other finalists to secure top spot and $1million in the Milken Motsepe Prize in Green Energy at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles last night (Monday 6 May).

The groundbreaking project involves a revolutionary self-sustaining system made up of a solar microgrid, a micro electric tractor – both of which have been invented and manufactured at the University – and Deep Bed Farming, which more than doubles crop yield.

Project lead and Lecturer in Sustainable Energy Systems at Loughborough University, Dr Jonathan Wilson said: “Recognition from the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy spurs us on in our mission to make real and positive change to the people and farmers of Africa.  

“The Aftrak system is an economy in a box! Our solar array electrifies the community, powers our micro electric tractor which allows villages to use Deep Bed Farming to increase their crop yield by up to three-fold which in turn allows for the purchase of power from our microgrid, creating a self-sustaining model for decentralised energy access.” 

Aftrak is a partnership of researchers from Loughborough University’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology, Tiyeni – a Malawian NGO whose UK arm has funded the development of DBF, The Consortium for Battery Innovation – which has delivered cutting-edge research taking lead batteries to a new level. Aftrak has also been supported by Innovate UK and Varta by Clarios – one of the world’s largest battery manufacturers. 

Executive Director for Tiyeni, Alex Gerard said: “At Tiyeni, we are delighted to be winners of such a prestigious prize, and part of such an amazing consortium. As a small charity working in rural Africa for the last 18 years, we have seen the transformation our Deep Bed Farming has on the communities we service. 

“Aftrak has the potential to take this to the next level, speeding up land preparation and making it more accessible, whilst also providing green energy to even the most remote communities. Creating a productive and strong foundation to empower communities to thrive is at the heart of Tiyeni's mission, and combining Deep Bed Farming and Aftrak can truly turn the tide on food and energy insecurity.”  

Dr Carl Telford, Research, and Innovation Director at the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI) said: “We are honoured to have won the Milken-Motsepe Prize in Green Energy against four other extraordinary projects from across the globe.” 

“Aftrak is a key project for CBI because it demonstrates how the new generation of advanced lead batteries integrates very well with solar panels to provide an affordable, safe, and stable energy supply for off-grid rural communities. Recognition in this competition validates the innovation potential of lead batteries for green energy applications, which is great news for our industry.”  

Following successful tests at Loughborough University and demonstrations at the Africa Green Economy Summit in South Africa, Aftrak is now being deployed in Malawi, where over 60% of the population is multidimensionally poor and close to 90% are without access to electricity.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 24/54

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