Farmers were last month treated to a rare invention in agriculture during the University of Nairobi’s innovation week.
Curious participants milled around a stand labelled ‘precision agriculture’ where aviation experts from Astral Aerial Solutions, a drone company, were explaining how drones work.
“Imagine being able to view your crops from the sky, to see what part of the farm needs extra attention and to see how your crops are doing. You can easily send a drone to do that for you,” explained Geoffrey Nyaga, a Technical University of Kenya graduate who was part of astral team.
Smart Harvest later visited Astral Aerial Solutions at their Jomo Kenyatta International Airport premises, and were taken round the facility that hosts different types of drones for precision agriculture.
CHOPPERS VS DRONES
Kush Gadhia, Astral Aerial Solutions Business Development Manager explained that drones for agriculture are designed for various functions which include crop consulting, irrigation management, crop spraying and crop inspection.
Gadhia also noted that now that the Government has permited the use of drones in Kenya, more farmers will embrace the technology. Last month, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority allowed drone use for private and commercial use.
This will come with numerous possibilities for both small and large scale farmers.
Gadhia said precision farming is especially important to small scale farmers who could not afford regular choppers to monitor their farms.
Patrick Ndung’u, a farmer said he had heard of drones for agriculture in the United States and South Africa.
“For long, I have wished that drones were allowed in Kenya to help farmers who can’t afford aircraft,” said Ndung’u. The farmer has 61 acres of land in Narok where he grows yellow beans, potatoes and butternuts. The same crops are planted on his 34-acre farm in Njoro. His concern has been an efficient way to spray his crops. Drones offer that solution.
He says traditional ways of surveying land lead to a lot of wastage as he sprays the whole farm, instead of the affected areas.
But he has heard of the miniature planes, sometimes only a few inches of length,mounted with cameras that provide real-time images of the farm and crops. Ndung’u says he is interested in getting as much information as possible on drone operation. This, according to Gadhia may not be possible as Kenya does not have drone pilots.
The company however, is working with drone schools in South Africa to establish a training academy in Limuru where potential drone owners will be trained on drone operation.