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    homescreen enBy George P. Munene

    Plantix is a mobile crop advisory app that helps farmers and extension workers diagnose issues with their crops and offers appropriate treatment measures. All this is available at a click of a button and at no cost to the farmer. 

    “Since I started using the app early last year my input cost has fallen by about a third while my yield output has almost doubled,” testifies Antony Ndwiga, a vegetable farmer at Makutano, Meru.

    Plantix employs image recognition software that scans the precise pest, disease or nutrient deficiency and gives an immediate brief reply on the cause of the problem and the possible chemical and biological remedies.

    According to the Plantix team, farmers who cannot download the app are also catered to as they can send pictures of their afflicted crops over WhatsApp and get a prompt diagnosis.

    Added to this the app also helps farmers gain knowledge on the best farming practices for most major crops, crop diseases preventative measures as well as offering a tailored fertiliser application calculator.

    First released in 2015,Plantix, christened the “mobile crop doctor” is proving a god sent for many crop farmers. “Getting ahold of reliable agronomic help is a major hustle; private agronomists are expensive while government extension officers will be ‘on the way to your farm’ for weeks. With Plantix’s integration of WhatsApp all I do is send a picture of my afflicted crop and have a clear diagnosis and possible remedy in short order.” explains Ndwiga.

    Farmers can access localised weather forecasts for at least five days; participate in an online community of fellow farmers and scientists to discuss all matters crop farming. Farmers also get agricultural advice throughout the various planting seasons, post-harvest management and receive alerts if there's a crop disease spreading in their region.

    The app is user friendly, having an intuitive easy to master interface available in 18 local dialects--these features are crucial for most farmers who are older and not especially technologically conversant 

    “I have had little need for a plant health expert since I began using Plantix-- I very much walk around with my very own pocket agronomist these days.” Antony says. With over 10 million downloads, many other farmers can testify to this.

    Plantix on WhatsApp; +917876171002

    Plantix app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.peat.GartenBank&hl=en&gl=US

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    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.   

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    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.

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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:

     +254733271175

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

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    118672732 10207737376148813 7099141613297630535 n

    By George Munene

    A solar insect light trap is one of the most effective tools of insect pest management in both organic and conventional agriculture as it mass-traps both insect pests sexes reducing farm pest burden by up to 80 per cent.
    Light traps are energy-saving and easy to use and independent of electricity allowing farmers to monitor and control insect pests. As a one-off 5–6-year investment it significantly reduces the repeated costs of buying pesticides.

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    With a majority of flying pests harmful to crops being nocturnal, they are hard to control by conventional methods. Light traps, one for every half an acre, used at the onset of the planting season control nearly all the insect pests that attack crops from fruit borer moths, hoppers to fruit weevils. By attracting and killing one adult moth, for example, farmers can control around 300-400 subsequent insect progenies.
    Light traps also help farmers figure out what types of insects are there in the field and whether they are at a controllable level or not. If the insect population burden is too heavy to be controlled by a light trap the farmer can decide on a more potent pest management method they’ll have to take up.
    The solar insect light trap has the advantages of being portable; it can be easily fixed at any place of the crop field using a tripod stand and can be shifted easily from one plot to another. They are made of steel and plastic and powered by a 10–15-watt solar panel. It should be set 3-5 feet from the floor— the height at which flies typically travel. It is also automated; switching on at 5 pm and going off at 8 am; meaning the farmer does not require to examine it all the time.

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    One downside to using light traps is that they do not filter out what insects are attracted to them meaning some nocturnal beneficial insects can also be caught and killed. With time their UV coating also wears off and even though the lamps still light, it needs replenishing or else it won't attract and trap as many flying Insects.

    Organic Farm 2 Home Ltd: 0711303668

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