JM Social Icons

    Former pilot helps farmers raise profits with drone aided agriculture

    Drone edited

    By George P. Munene

    After 13 years in the avi­ation sec­tor, re­tired Cap­tain Dan Ng'ong'a has meshed his new­found pas­sion for ag­ri­cul­ture and his avi­ation back­ground to help farm­ers mas­ter pre­ci­sion ag­ri­cul­ture that helps them raise their yields and cut on costs.

    “A drone fit­ted with an 18-liter tank can cover five acres of farm­land in just 15 minutes. This is com­pared to con­ven­tional human spray­ing that takes 4-5 hours and up to three rounds of spray­ing with a 20-liter knap­sack sprayer to cover an acre of land. This means agro­chem­ic­als that would for ex­ample last a month can be stretched to last for two months in­stead,” Ng'ong'a ex­plains.

    “As a farmer my­self (he runs Dan­ico Ven­tures—a mixed farm loc­ated at Emakoko, Kiten­gela) I am all too aware of the major pain points for Kenyan farm­ers; how to im­prove yields while man­aging the cost of pro­duc­tion,” he says.   

    Re­lated News: In­teg­rat­ing tech­no­logy solu­tions to pro­duce bet­ter yields for farm­ers

    Re­lated News: Kenya’s in­creas­ing ag­ri­cul­tural in­nov­a­tions poised to boost food se­cur­ity

    Hav­ing got­ten his drone li­cense and re­gistered his busi­ness, the former Kenya Air­ways pilot has em­barked on help­ing trans­form Africa’s ag­ri­cul­tural land­scape fo­cused on un­earth­ing prac­tical solu­tions for small-scale farm hold­ers' that help im­prove their bot­tom line.

    Most of Africa's pop­u­la­tion is, dir­ectly and in­dir­ectly, de­pend­ent on ag­ri­cul­ture, prac­ticed mostly by small-holder farm­ers and the mul­ti­plier ef­fect of hav­ing mar­ginal gains in the sec­tor could be trans­form­a­tional for the con­tin­ent he con­tends.

    “We are fo­cused on of­fer­ing the right value pro­pos­i­tion to small-scale farm­ers: col­lat­ing 20 farm­ers pay­ing Sh2000 each for a ser­vice rather than one large scale farmer pay­ing a sim­ilar amount will have a lar­ger foot­print in the trans­form­a­tion of Africa's ag­ri­cul­ture,” Dan elu­cid­ates.

    Dan­ico Drones of­fers a bou­quet ser­vice; from soil test­ing and ana­lysis, crop scout­ing and crop spray­ing. 

    The com­pany uses scan­ning tech­no­logy for soil tests mean­ing the res­ults are in­stant­an­eous; they're re­ceived after just five minutes, un­like the usual KALRO res­ults which take two weeks. As stan­dalone samples for an acre soil tests cost farm­ers Sh2000.

    “We en­cour­age small­holder farm­ers to pool to­gether to make it eco­nom­ic­ally feas­ible to reach re­gions fur­ther out from where we are headquartered in Nairobi,” Ng'ong'a says.

    For scout­ing ser­vices, a drone can cover two acres in just five minutes—it takes real-time aer­ial pic­tures of a farm which are then stitched onto a map which forms the basis of ana­lysis. This gives the farmer the abil­ity to bet­ter plan their farm. 

    For plant pest and plant dis­eases ana­lysis they are able to re­flect dif­fer­ent amounts of vis­ible light (VIS), near-in­frared (NIR) light VIS and NIR light, which are a meas­ure of how healthy plants are. By meas­ur­ing the changes in vis­ible and NIR light re­flec­ted from a crop, farm­ers can spot po­ten­tial health is­sues in their crop. Un­manned aer­ial vehicles also allow for tar­geted spray­ing—zero­ing in on the exact area a farmer should be look­ing to apply agro­chem­ic­als on their farm. This helps save on chem­ical ap­plic­a­tion costs and is use­ful for farm­ers look­ing to min­im­ise their use of chem­ic­als. The tech­no­logy also in­teg­rates rem­ed­ies for crop stresses such as dis­eases which can be sought through mo­bile crop ad­vis­ory apps.

    Farm­ers also get an exact bear­ing on the plant pop­u­la­tion on their farm al­low­ing them to have an ac­cur­ate read­ing of their ex­pec­ted yield. Other im­port­ant meas­ures are weed ana­lysis and ag­ri­cul­ture ap­plic­a­tions such as fer­til­izer, pesti­cides, and water dis­tri­bu­tion.

    All this al­lows farm­ers to prac­tice pre­ci­sion ag­ri­cul­ture en­sur­ing in­puts – nu­tri­ents, pesti­cides, seeds or water are used with ex­actitude and stra­tegic­ally im­prov­ing pro­ductiv­ity and re­source ef­fi­ciency, re­du­cing costs and ex­ert­ing min­imal en­vir­on­mental im­pact.

    Re­lated News: Kenya to build Africa’s first ag­ritech in­nov­a­tion in­cub­ator

    Re­lated News: Af­ford­able in­ter­net en­abling farm­ers im­prove food pro­duc­tion

    Aer­ial sur­vey ren­der­ing cost Shs 5,000 with crop scout­ing and ana­lysis cost­ing a fur­ther Sh5,000 per acre. Crop spray­ing cost Sh 2,500 for every acre with a min­imum acre­age of four acres

    “With time the data bank we hope to col­lect can also be use­ful to na­tional and county gov­ern­ments for bet­ter plan­ning by help­ing de­term­ine the most im­pact­ful ag­ri­cul­tural in­ter­ven­tions as well as private play­ers such as ag­ri­cul­tural in­sur­ance firms in help­ing set premi­ums,” says Dan.

    The com­pany is cur­rently draft­ing an op­er­a­tional plan for use of drones in com­bat­ing the lo­cust men­ace that has swarmed East Africa.  

    Dan­ico Drone Ser­vices:


    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Comments powered by CComment

    Editor's Pick

    All News

    Powered by mod LCA

    Sign Up

    Sign up to receive our newsletter
    FarmBiz Africa © 2020