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Drones make spraying cheaper, easier for ADC

Drones display at the Agriculture Development Corporation farm in Trans Nzoia County. The ADC has embraced used of drones to survey farm and to spray seed maize. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

When farmers embraced technology, the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) dived into motorised and aerial sprayers to control fungal and viral diseases in seed maize.

However, the motorised sprayers proved expensive, wasteful and unreliable over the years, pushing ADC to introduce drone sprayers in 2019. A drone is a small flying robotic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that can be remotely controlled.

Drones are controlled using flight plans in their embedded systems that work in conjunction with onboard sensors and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Three years down the line, ADC notes that drones have done more good than bad after they were introduced.

According to Mohamed Bulle, the ADC managing director, the corporation introduced drones to reduce operational costs and enhance productivity.

Since then, Bulle notes that there has been precision agriculture in the ADC farms that has improved efficiency, productivity, crop yield and profitability.

The firm hires five drones to spray the expansive 34,000 acres of maize in Trans Nzoia County, twice every year.

With the technology, ADC’s maize production increased from 50 to about 64 tonnes per hectare, and from 2,000 to about 3,000 tonnes of seed potato annually. Drone lenders charge Sh800 per acre.

Bulle states that the corporation was employing the new drone technology to scale up efficiency in the sub-sector and improve food security. He notes that before the introduction of the drones, ADC was spending huge sums of money to hire aircraft and mechanised sprayers to spray maize fields.

“Despite the erratic weather, ADC expects good yields every year, because we embrace timely planting and use of technology,” states Bulle.

ADC notes that the use of drone technology has reduced the wastage of chemicals and resources as witnessed before in aircraft and mechanised sprayers.

The drones are also used to survey fields in terms of size, outputs and soil type.

According to Nimrod Kipchumba, ADC’S technical officer in charge of crops in Kitale area, to use drone sprayers, the mapping must be done using GPS survey drones in the fields to get the coordinates. The technical GPS information is then uploaded into the drone's navigation system.