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Milken-Motsepe finalists in South Africa to showcase their off-grid, green energy designs

OMNIVAT's containerised energy solution

Aftrak's deep-bed farming tractor

20th February 2024

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Bold, scaleable and collaborative – these are the three characteristics of the project that will clinch the $1-million Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy, says Milken Institute senior director Dr Emily Musil Church.

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank bringing together “the best ideas and innovative resourcing to develop blueprints for tackling some of our most critical global issues”.

The Motsepe Foundation was founded in 1999 by mining magnate Dr Patrice Motsepe and his wife, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe

The goal of the foundation is to contribute towards “eradicating poverty and to sustainably improve the living conditions and standards of living of poor, unemployed and marginalised people”. 

The five finalists in the Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy competition are AfTrak Micro Electric Agriculture and Energy, for its system of using solar microgrids to power custom-designed tractors for deep-bed farming; GEG – Geosleeve for its thermoelectric geothermal power generation from low temperature geothermal; Newdigit Technologies, for its compact, portable device to generate energy and purify water; and Smart Agri-Centres, for its solar-powered community hubs that provide affordable clean energy and services to farmers. 

South Africa’s finalist is OMNIVAT, for its containerised electricity generation and storage system for remote communities, also able to purify water.

Each finalist team has received $70 000 to further develop and test their off-grid, green-energy designs in a live field test demonstration in South Africa, currently under way.

An independent judging panel selected the five teams based on evaluation of real-world data.  

Judges will now continue to evaluate the teams’ abilities to meet the challenge of generating 60 kWh of electricity in a 24-hour period by demonstrating off-grid electricity generation using green energy sources; validating demonstration results with data collection; and providing affordable and reliable electricity to energy-poor communities.

The $1-million grand prize will be awarded in May, in Los Angeles. The runner-up will receive $250 000.

In total, the Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy will award more than $2-million in prizes and additional benefits. 

“When we award the prize, we see that only as the beginning of the work,” says Church.

“We take the winners to Los Angeles so that we can bring them in front of an ecosystem that is able to take their solutions to the next level.

“The winners in the Milken-Motsepe Agritech prize competition received an additional $3-million in private investment within six months.”

The Milken–Motsepe Prize in Green Energy is open to entries from around the world, and not just entrepreneurs from Africa.

“Anyone, anywhere in the world – whoever has the best innovation – can win,” Church tells Engineering News Online.

“The compromise is to not create something in some part of the world that does not work somewhere else.

“So, every single test has been done on the African continent. It also means that any group or team not from Africa must partner with someone from Africa in order to test their concepts.”


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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