News and knowhow for farmers

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

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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:



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