Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

VertAfrika Limited

What is the name of your solution?


Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Utilising solar-powered irrigation systems and climate-smart agricultural technology to restore degraded agricultural land, conserve biodiversity, optimise water use, and enhance food production.

What specific problem are you solving?

I am tackling the problem of land degradation in Nigeria by utilising solar-powered irrigation systems to restore degraded agricultural land, conserve biodiversity, optimise agricultural water use, and enhance food production. I was inspired to tackle this challenge and design an innovative sustainable solution like SunnySprouts, having survived the pain and loss when my family's farmland could no longer sustain us. The once-fertile farmland passed down for generations had become infertile and barren due to agricultural land degradation. I still remember the deep sense of helplessness and despair we felt as we struggled to survive in a world without our farmland. It was a stark awakening of how interconnected our lives with the natural world are, and the memory reminds me of how urgently we need to take action to restore our planet and protect our future.

Land degradation is a growing concern in Nigeria affecting the livelihood of over 40 million people. Caused by deforestation, mining, bush burning, overgrazing, soil erosion, excessive use of fertilisers or pesticides, salination, desert encroachment, unsustainable water management, and extreme weather conditions due to climate change like drought. Based on the default data related to the LDN indicators provided by the UNCCD Secretariat in the context of the LDN TSP, in the period 2000 to 2010, more than 463,360 ha of forestland were lost, including 344,710 ha area converted to shrubs, grasslands and sparsely vegetated areas, and 118,570 ha converted to cropland. Bare lands and other areas increased by 80 ha. For the land productivity dynamic, it was observed that 360,340 ha of forestland had shown declining productivity while 178,620 ha of forestland showed early signs of decline. Given that land is an essential input in agriculture and agriculture provides employment for 70% of the over 200 million population, the effects of land degradation and the depletion of soil resources have profound socio-economic and environmental implications for Nigeria with impacts ranging from rural-urban migration, the decline in food production, water insecurity, reduced food production, increased pressure on land resources, to armed conflicts.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), In its quarterly report titled “Crop Prospect and Food Situation“, about 25.3 million people in Nigeria will experience acute food insecurity in the 2023 lean season. The FAO said the projected figure is higher than the 19.45 million forecasted in 2022. Currently, only 1% of Nigerian cropland is irrigated, and as a country whose agricultural production relies heavily on rain-fed cultivation, this means most farmers can only cultivate their fields during the rainy (wet) season: leaving farmers, food-insecure populations and farmlands vulnerable to the changing and unpredictable climate. 

This implies that expanding SunnySprouts in Nigeria would lessen the impact of extreme weather conditions particularly droughts, desertification, or water logging that have contributed to land degradation and widespread famine in the past and reduce some of the risks of the current food production system.


What is your solution?

SunnySprouts is a transformational solution incorporating solar-powered irrigation with climate-smart agriculture methodology to protect biodiversity and the ecosystem while promoting sustainable food production.

This solution uses solar energy to power irrigation systems for crop production, the mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels provide shade to protect the crops (grown using agricultural technology vertically, in sacks/containers or off the ground – soilless) and the topsoil from the harsh rays of the sun. The systematically arranged solar PV panels capture water which would have otherwise run off to cause floods or erosion via channelled troughs into tanks. The solar irrigation system is connected via an ethernet network and can be operated manually or automatically via an installed mobile app or web application and monitored. This setup connects the solar equipment and soil probes to an ethernet network to enable real-time monitoring, data collection and analysis of parameters like temperature, moisture, humidity, carbon emissions, and energy uptime.

SunnySprouts' impact areas are:

  • Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Restoration: SunnySprouts strategically positioned solar panels provide crop cover and collect rainwater preventing soil erosion and loss of biodiversity, while also providing important co-benefits like carbon sequestration and flood control which can have far-reaching benefits for both human and environmental health.
  • Optimal Water Use: Water is a limited resource and with our water collection technique we can minimise the amount of groundwater or river water we need to pump to irrigate our crops. SunnySprouts ensures current reliance on rain fed cultivation is eliminated; this means that farmers, food-insecure populations and farmlands will no longer be vulnerable to the changing and unpredictable climate.
  • High Crop Yields: Degraded farmlands produce fewer and fewer crops every harvest. With SunnySprouts we can produce even more crops, on the same land, using less amount of water and clean energy without harming the soil.
  • Decarbonisation: We are reducing the carbon footprint of food production by minimising the environmental impact of traditional agriculture practices.
  • Community Empowerment: We empower our local community with gainful employment and valuable knowledge to transform their lives through community-driven climate resilience efforts.
  • Low Food Production Cost: With our solar-powered irrigation system we save spends from diesel purchases to power electric generators.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

SunnySprouts will impact the lives of over 65.3 million Nigerians. This figure is obtained from the 40 million Nigerians currently affected by land degradation and the over 25.3 million Nigerians projected to suffer food insecurity and shortage in 2023.

Our beneficiaries are low-income earners, suburban dwellers, rural dwellers, small-holder farmers, and vulnerable communities in Nigeria.

SunnySprouts will deliver the following value for our beneficiaries:

  • Climate-Adaptation Techniques: SunnySprouts will address the needs of tens of millions of Nigerian small-holder farmers by providing a climate-smart productive farm management intervention to boost revenue by increasing crop yield and prevent land degradation and infertility by replenishing lost soil nutrients.
  • Land Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation: Our unique solution, will address the urgent needs of over 40 million residents of vulnerable communities who have had their livelihoods impacted, and lost their homes and loved ones from violent conflicts over scarce natural resources due to degraded land.
  • Food Security: This innovation will address the needs of tens of millions of low-income earners and urban dwellers in Nigerians by increasing food production and preventing food shortages.

How our beneficiaries interact with us:

  • Small-holder farmers: Contract SunnySprouts solution as a service for their farms or farmlands with fragile soils or infertile soils.
  • Communities/Corporate Organisations and Governments: Contract our SunnySprouts implementation service for their degraded lands.
  • Communities: Learn climate resilience methods to prevent soil infertility and degradation to protect the environment and secure their livelihood and protect.
  • Consumers: Purchase fresh, affordable organic foods via our stalls in community markets.

Over the next 5 years, SunnySprouts aims to achieve a 46% reduction in the number of people impacted by land infertility and degradation and a 24% reduction in the total number of people projected to suffer food insecurity in Nigeria.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

SunnySprouts leadership team has spent the last 2 years learning and perfecting climate-smart food production and for the past years we have successfully incorporated solar as a service to drive irrigation systems to promote food production on infertile lands. Hence, we are well positioned and equipped to deliver climate adaptation solutions because we have an efficient solution in place as SunnySprouts is currently providing efficient interventions in 3 Nigerian communities.

Our team including our employees and volunteers are 100% Nigerians. Our employees and volunteers are from our communities as we are firm believers in empowering our community through employment and knowledge transfer. Our leadership team have over 35 years of combined experience in renewable energy, construction, agriculture, social development, project management, education and management consulting.

The leadership team is made up of 3 people and we all live and work in the communities we serve:

  • Itohan Egbedion, Chief Executive Officer: A sustainability professional and social innovator with over 14 years of experience handling social development projects in Nigeria and globally. She is responsible for providing leadership for the successful implementation of the SunnySprouts and coordinating the development of marketing strategy, marketing and allocation of resources.
  • Babatunde Oyemade, Chief Compliance Officer: A seasoned lawyer and agribusiness professional with over 8 years of post-call experience. He is responsible for ensuring compliance with legal and statutory regulations, handles all logistics and heads community engagement activities like empowerment workshops and seminars.
  • Chiagoziem Obi, Chief Operations Officer: A trained scientist and solar power technician with 13 years of experience working in the renewable energy sector in Nigeria. She is responsible for the smooth operations of the SunnySprouts operations.

To better understand the problem we are solving, we periodically meet with community leaders and members formally and informally to discuss their needs or give updates on our work and impact, and we often collect our data through surveys and interviews. We also participate in related industry events and regulatory agency newsletters to keep abreast of new findings, updates and regulations on land restoration.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Adapt land and coastal areas to more extreme weather, including through climate-smart agriculture or restoring natural ecosystems to mitigate impacts.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Abeokuta, Ogun State

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • Nigeria

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

How many people does your solution currently serve?

198,000 people.

Why are you applying to Solve?

SunnySprouts, our solution is validated with proven results based on a sustainable business model, and as Solvers we hope to leverage MIT Solve’s assistance to refine our product offerings, develop market linkages and break into new markets.

Secondly, we also plan to leverage Solve’s innovative ecosystem to access world-class resources, build global business partnerships, get business support and strategic guidance from industry experts and coaches that will help us access funding, and gain technical and sales partnerships to better position SunnySprouts for more impact.

With Solve’s support, we will amplify our SunnySprouts’ visibility to reach a bigger market and engage with stakeholders to build climate resilience by restoring degraded land and conserving biodiversity.

Finally, we are applying to Solve’s to access its unique network of like-minded social entrepreneurs. We hope to learn from the unique and diverse experiences of peers, gain life-long friends, and expand SunnySprouts’ social impact through collaboration.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. delivery, logistics, expanding client base)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Itohan Egbedion

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

SunnySprouts is innovative in that it takes an integrated approach to provide comprehensive solutions to the interdependent issues of land degradation, food insecurity, water scarcity, climate change, and biodiversity loss while addressing the complex challenges in the water-energy-food nexus.

SunnySprouts is sustainable and promotes food quality, and the conservation of natural resources, including biodiversity, soil health, and water. It minimises the environmental impact of traditional agriculture practices. It generates the energy required for food production through solar panels strategically installed as roofs over the crops. With the solar panel's shades, it uses an ancient rain-water collection technique to optimise water use. The shade provided by the PV panels protects the plants from the heat and harsh rays of direct sunlight helping the soil and crops to retain moisture.

This solution also uniquely emphasises diversity, equity and inclusivity through community engagement, education and empowerment. It is focused on empowering people to take active roles in restoring their ancestral lands and protecting their livelihoods to create a more equitable and resilient future.

SunnySprouts represents a cutting-edge and forward-thinking approach to land restoration and climate adaptation with the potential to transform vulnerable communities and the global food system.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our 2024 impact goals are: 

  • Restore 30 ha of degraded land.
  • Reduce food shortage in our communities in Ogun State Nigeria by producing 2,765 tons of fresh organic food.
  • Assist 1,700 small-holder farmers.
  • Reduce reliance on fossil generated power to 60% (by adding a 3.5kva hybrid solar inverter, 13kw storage lithium batteries and 4.0kwp tier1 mono crystalline solar panels to the existing energy mix).
  • Train 2,500 people in our communities on climate adaptation methodologies for sustainable agriculture and land restoration to enable them secure jobs in the agricultural sector (Nigeria's biggest employer of labor), or improve their current farming techniques and grow their agribusiness.
  • Increase our run-off water catchment capacity to 40% of total water use
  • Recruit 9 community members as full-time staff.

Our 2028 impact goals are:

  • Restore 1,700 ha of degraded land.
  • Reduce food shortage in our communities across Nigeria by producing 32,410 tons of fresh organic food.
  • Assist 50,000 smallholder farmers.
  • Reduce reliance on fossil generated power to 10%.
  • Train 70,000 people in our communities on climate adaptation methodologies for sustainable agriculture and land restoration to enable them secure jobs in the agricultural sector (Nigeria's biggest employer of labor), or improve their current farming techniques and grow their agribusiness.
  • Increase our run-off water catchment capacity to 85% of total water use
  • Recruit 155 community members as full-time staff. 

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework using key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics (based on the sustainable development goals and our business objectives) to assess SunnySprouts' impact. These include Land Conversion/Restoration Metrics,  Energy Efficiency, Water Utilisation, Food Production Metrics,  Community Engagement and Empowerment, Environmental Impact, and Economic Indicators.

By periodically measuring and monitoring these indices, we are able to assess the effectiveness of our business strategies, identify areas of improvement and make informed decisions to achieve our desired outcome.

What is your theory of change?

SunnySprouts' theory of change revolves around the belief that by implementing sustainable and innovative practices in land restoration we can drive positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes.

Our theory of change are:

  • Mitigating Environmental Impact: SunnySprouts utilise solar energy, minimise chemical inputs, and conserve water resources to promote ecosystem restoration.
  • Producing Food Sustainably: SunnySprouts prioritises soil health, biodiversity conservation, and resource efficiency to create a resilient and ecologically balanced food production system.
  • Promoting Food Security: Our innovation promotes food security through climate-smart agricultural practices and advanced technology.
  • Empowering Communities: We provide employment and training on sustainable farming practices that build climate resilience and protect soil fertility, promoting agricultural entrepreneurship.
  • Creating Economic Opportunities: Our solution adopts innovative technologies and market-driven approaches to create economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, entrepreneurs, and rural communities.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

SunnySprouts utilises a range of innovative technologies to restore degraded land, conserve biodiversity, optimise water utilisation, minimise environmental impact, and enhance food production.

Some of the key technologies we employ are:

  • Solar Energy Systems: We harness solar energy using solar panels and solar-powered infrastructure, we monitor and measure the performance of the solar energy system in real time via an ethernet network.
  • IoT (Internet of Things) and Automation: We leverage IoT devices and automation technologies like automated irrigation systems and IoT sensors to monitor solar energy production and utilisation, optimise resource usage, restore land fertility and improve operational efficiency.
  • Precision Agriculture Technologies: SunnySprouts deploy precision agriculture techniques like the use of sensors to monitor crop health, soil moisture levels, and nutrient requirements to optimise resource use and maximise crop yields. By collecting real-time data we make informed decisions about irrigation, nutrient application, and pest management, leading to increased crop yield and more sustainable farming practices.
  • Hydroponics and Vertical Farming: We employ hydroponics and vertical farming systems to cultivate crops under mounted solar panels. These technologies enable year-round cultivation, efficient use of water and nutrients, and reduce pressure on the fragile soil.
  • Efficient Irrigation Systems: We use water-efficient irrigation systems (drip irrigation) to deliver water directly to the root zone of plants, minimising water loss through evaporation and ensuring that crops receive the right amount of water.
  • Solar Panels Shades: We use solar panels as shade. This provides a protected environment for crop growth, protecting plants from extreme weather conditions while optimising light, temperature, and humidity levels.
  • Water Collection: We have ingeniously devised a method of rooftop water harvesting from mounted PV panels. By strategically positioning the PV panels direct rainwater into storage tanks. This simple yet effective technique allowed us to capture and utilise rainwater, mitigating water scarcity, soil erosion, and flooding while providing a reliable source of water for crop production.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Imaging and Sensor Technology
  • Internet of Things
  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Nigeria

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Nigeria
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit

How many people work on your solution team?

SunnySprouts has 7 full-time staff (including the 3 leadership team) and 11 volunteers.

How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

At SunnySprouts, we understand the need for a more just, equitable, and inclusive community that benefits everyone; hence we prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion by actively working towards these values and reflecting the same in our leadership and operations.

Our leadership team of 3 is 66.7% women, with each team member coming from a unique range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

SunnySprouts also ensures that our engagement and empowerment activities are inclusive for all in our community, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, class, gender, religion, or political affiliations. Through our community engagement outreaches - seminars, workshops, and training for community members, we will promote knowledge transfer on climate-resilience methods for sustainable food production and biodiversity conservation.

In SunnySprouts operations, we use sustainable and climate adaptive practices that not only reduce reliance on fossil-powered energy sources, enhance crop yields, or promote biodiversity but also support the local community.

Finally, our business strategy plan is to actively only seek collaborations and partnership opportunities with organisations and individuals with a track record of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

SunnySprouts operates on a sustainable business model, our business model is transaction based, and we charge per land restoration service carried out and per kg of food purchased.

The key components of our business model are:

  • Solar-Powered: SunnySprouts harnesses the power of solar energy to protect land and enhance food production. We utilize solar panels to generate clean and renewable energy, which is used to power various operations such as irrigation systems, climate control, and processing equipment reducing reliance on conventional energy sources and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices: SunnySprouts employs climate-smart agriculture practices such as permaculture, organic farming, and regenerative farming techniques. These practices prioritize soil health, biodiversity conservation, water conservation, and ecosystem restoration. By adopting solar-powered irrigation, SunnySprouts minimizes the use of synthetic chemicals, optimises water consumption, and promotes the overall climate resilience and productivity of our operations.
  • Market-Driven Approach: SunnySprouts focuses on meeting the growing demand for land restoration and the urgent market demand for sustainably produced, locally sourced, and high-quality food products. We conducted surveys, market research and interviews to identify our beneficiaries' preferences and tailored our business to meet those demands.
  • Value-Added Products and Services: SunnySprouts diversifies its offerings by creating value-added products and services. This additional revenue stream enhances the financial sustainability of the business while providing customers and stakeholders with a range of options to engage with SunnySprouts.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: SunnySprouts actively seek collaborations with research institutions, technology providers, agricultural experts, and community organizations that value diversity, inclusion and equity. These partnerships will help us access expertise, resources, and funding opportunities, further strengthening our business and amplifying its impact.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

SunnySprouts will become financially sustainable through multiple income streams (service and product offerings), grants, and also raising capital (for expansion). We have strategically positioned SunnySprouts in the market by tapping into the growing demand for agricultural land restoration and sustainable locally sourced food. We will provide land restoration services to smallholder farmers and communities while also providing fresh organic foods to customers.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We raised about $13,500 from our personal network and family when we started SunnySprouts.

Following the success of our pilot, we were able to secure paid customers and we have successfully diversified our revenue streams to include sales of fresh food (produced from our land restoration efforts) and by exploring various business models such as direct-to-consumer sales, and partnerships with local restaurants and markets, and we will consider value-added product lines in the future. Our adaptability has allowed us to capture new market segments and create additional income sources, which ensured our financial sustainability.

Our financial success has emboldened us for further expansion, scalability, and the continued pursuit of our objective to restore land, conserve biodiversity and achieve sustainable food production.

Solution Team

  • Itohan Egbedion Chief Executive Officer/Founder, VertAfrika Limited
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