Providing water to livestock grazing on an outfarm where there is no piped water supply available is a challenge that many farmers face.

This month’s Farming Designs: time and labour-saving idea details how Meath farmer Eddie Maher from Boyerstown, Navan, overcame this challenge by manufacturing low-cost solar-powered water pumps with remote monitoring capability.

Eddie says he has built two such units in the last 12 to 18 months.

The first unit was built to extract water from a stream and prevent livestock from directly accessing the watercourse.

The second unit, which is profiled here, was built to supply water for an outfarm that has a natural well as a source of water but no electricity supply to install an electric pump.

Water was previously extracted using a petrol generator and 230V pump but this had limitations and Eddie wanted an easier method that eliminated the need for him to be there to fill water.

The well itself is about 10ft deep and is too narrow for a submersible pump and, therefore, a surface pump was used.

Building the unit

Eddie describes the unit as a simple 12V water pump, battery and solar panel with charge controller.

The water pump fills the IBC tank pictured, with gravity then filling cattle drinkers.

The underside of the unit showing the link-up of all the fittings.

The unit itself was built by welding scrap metal to build a frame to hold the solar panel and associated fittings. The battery also supplies enough power to operate an electric fence.

There is an impressive add-on to the unit, with Eddie in a position to monitor the water flow remotely.

He says: “I also wanted a way to monitor the pump as I was working off farm, so I built a monitoring system using a Raspberry Pi (a small, affordable computer) and an Arduino microcontroller.

The unit in place at Eddie's house receives information from the unit present at the well site.

“The Arduino monitors the water level in the IBC with a distance sensor and relays the data via the Raspberry Pi with a 4G modem to an app on my phone,” Eddie says.

“An alert is sent if the water level drops below 50%.

The Arduino monitors the water level in the IBC with a distance sensor and relays the data via the Raspberry Pi with a 4G modem to an app on Eddie's phone.

“I’m also working on additional sensors to monitor the battery level and the electric fence line voltage.”

The screen on the application showing the level of water in the IBC tank.


The unit cost in the region of €300 to develop, excluding the cost of purchasing the battery.

Eddie says the Raspberry Pi can act as a gateway for a range of wireless sensors which, in the future, could provide the potential for livestock health/behavioural monitoring.

Find out more about the unit by visiting Eddie’s blog at