Stay Connected
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    This area does not yet contain any content.

    Entries in Design (4)



    For the past decade, Proximity has created products and services that support the entrepreneurial spirit of our rural Myanmar costumers. The treadle pump has been a central feature of our irrigation product offerings. Sturdy, durable, and affordable, the treadle pump has freed tens of thousands of rural families in Myanmar from the daily drudgery of hauling water to their fields.

    Today, farmers continue to look for efficient ways to save costs and expand their businesses. For many, this has meant switching to diesel engines for irrigation. Though more powerful, these heavy engines are polluting and noisy. Farmers complain about the high costs of running these motorized pumps, including daily purchases of fuel, frequent repairs and the need for extra labor to move them around. At Proximity, we’ve been working to create an alternative.

    On October 15th, we’ll celebrate the launch of our new, solar-powered irrigation pump.  Designed specifically for Myanmar farmers, Proximity’s super affordable solar pump fits into the narrow two-inch tube wells found nationwide on farms. This new product has been in the making for over a year. Now that it’s here, we can’t wait to share it with you.

    Meet The Lotus: 



    THE UNIVERSE: Gravity Vs. Drudgery



    Drip irrigation is a game changer. When our farmers see it for the first time they are incredulous, and with fair reason. With drip installed on a plot about 4 acres in size, daily labour can be reduced from 6-9 hours of lugging water in sprinkler cans, to 30 minutes of treadling a pump, and 15 seconds spent turning on a tap. Crops are healthier, yields are bigger, less water is wasted, and farmers are happier. 

    A product so good, surely it should have been thought up sooner?

    Well, the truth is, it had been. The benefits of drip irrigation have been well documented and enjoyed for over 100 years in the Middle East, America and Europe.

    So, why didn't it reach Myanmar earlier?

    Well, drip is normally powered by a mechanised pump, something few rural families in Myanmar have the capital to buy. To make this life-changing technology accessible to our extremely price sensitive market we began looking for a cheaper alternative. And then it hit us...just like that apple fell out of the tree and hit Newton.

    Check out the video.       


    THE WORKSHOP: Designing Robots... Part 2 - The Video


    We've already introduced you to our favourite robotic team member, but here's a funky little film showing him in action at the workshop.

    Many thanks to Hot Chip and EMI Music who provided the track Bendable, Poseable for the video.


    THE WORKSHOP: Designing Robots For the Bottom Billion

    Product designer David Klaus writes from the workshop...


    It’s a pretty safe bet that if I asked rural farmers in Myanmar to make a list of their top ten needs, robots wouldn’t make the cut.  Yet, as I type this, my desk is peppered with various robotic components, and a glance through the window into our product testing area reveals three of my teammates assembling and testing, well. . . a robot. 

    What on earth are we doing?

    We began our fixation with robots back in 2009 during the development of the Sin Pauk, our first plastic pump. We wanted a cheaper pump and plastic appealed for many reasons. However, all of our pumps to date had been made of steel, and we had little experience with a different medium.  Knowing the average farmer step on his pump 900,000 times a year, durability is key and our greatest fear was creating a product that, while working great in our design lab, mysteriously failed a few months after being set up in the field. Given its inferior strength to steel, our decision to commit to plastic was gutsy, and we needed to seriously test our designs before shipping them to stores. In the big push to upgrade our testing abilities that followed, the TreadleBot was born.

    An inexhaustible pair of robotic legs, the TreadleBot can step on new pump designs all day, every day. Any time we designed a plastic mold and got our first sample parts back, we would give them to the TreadleBot and during the course of the pump’s development, our robot put over 1.5 million cycles on various pump prototypes.

    As it did, we noticed how parts began to break.  In particular, we noticed one plastic part that tended to break after a few hundred thousand cycles. It would have made it through most workshop tests, but it couldn’t fool the TreadleBot, meaning we were able to replace it before a single bad part found its way into the hands of our customers.

    It’s a product that farmers will never buy, never even know about; an invisible product that only a handful of us will ever use.

    Yet, it’s become one of our most valuable investments.

    It’s a champion for something that’s critical for the success of any innovative endeavor: honesty.  It is not impressed by our brilliant ideas or idealism.  It grinds through prototypes with an astounding impartiality.  It does not give us extra gold stars for our socially-minded motives.  It demands results. And it helps us to deliver them.

    So while you may not get too many farmers asking for robots in their top ten list, I suspect that if you suggested “products that don’t disappoint you,” many of them would first laugh and say to you: “What?  You mean that’s even an option?”  And then they’d give you a big grin and say, “Absolutely.  Sign me up.”