The first edition of the East Africa digital farmers conference and exhibition 2018 at KALRO grounds, Loresho, Nairobi which ended a month ago saw many technology companies come up with the latest mobile applications that can help farmers manage their farm production activities with ease at anytime and anywhere as opposed to the farmers being forced to always be present in the farm monitoring the activities themselves.
Themed ‘enabling agribusiness and food security through ICT’ the conference saw emergence of simple to use apps with the leading being the 14 mobile application platforms by KALRO which are set to help farmers in production of different types of crops.
The fourteen apps include Avocado, banana, garlic, guava, pomegranate and spider flower production, FAW, GLS, MLN and PCN disease control apps. Others are mahindi-bora Kenya highlands, new KALRO cowpea varieties and guideline on production of medicated feed blocks.
The apps give step by step information on how to manage avocado, banana, garlic, spider flower and cassava farming. It touches on critical aspects from planting to harvesting and marketing besides informing farmers how to identify and control diseases which attack the crops.
According to the KALRO’ s ICT Department, the apps if well used by farmers will help ease their work by cutting cost and time of production hence improving yields.
“Our goal is to create impact through transfer of technologies that enhance agricultural productivity, commercialization, trade and improved nutrition,” said Mulwa during East Africa Farmers Digital conference.
We have also realized that most smallholder farmers run their farm production activities without expertise knowledge while big players in the sector rely on data which is could be expensive for the small-scale farmers hence they run into production and marketing problems.
For banana production for example, the app gives various varieties of tissue culture bananas and their characteristics, target production areas, temperature and water requirements, site selection and land preparation, planting requirements, and pest and diseases management.
Finally, it has banana harvesting, post-harvesting storage and market information.
Farmers can download all the apps from play store provided they have a smart phone and internet connection.
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Zalisha Android and web application
The app which was developed by a group of six software developers from Chandaria Business and Incubation Center connects farmers directly as it offers a marketplace for agricultural products such as avocados, onions, pineapples, mangoes, maize and beans along with predictive weather and climate analytics and accurate agricultural advice for farmers.
Zalisha is available on google play-store. To access it, one has to download it and install it on their mobile phones.
“Zalisha aims to help farmers get accurate and consistent weather for the present and future, give advice on crops to be planted, the timing, the required procedures for farming, how to combat crop pests and will advise farmers on the period for harvesting and how to do it safely, to gain maximum yield. This is done through video tutorials or quick notes,” said Steve Kombo, the Director of Zalisha.
It also provides a forum for one to ask and post questions related to their farming practices and provide a communication channel for farmers through the formation of communication channels and groups.
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Arinifu digital brooder
The digital brooder is made of a small analogue computer, some sensors and infrared lamps that can be used to monitor chicks brooding space and relay a real-time information to the farmer through Short Message Service (SMS) hence ensuring farmers of peace of mind all time.
It is a complete system which constitutes of 3 – 5 sensors that take readings throughout the brooding space and relay the data to a small analogue computer which is programmed to determine the age of the chicks and regulates the conditions in the brooding space to meet the chicks’ requirement at that specific age.
“Our device is such a simple one to use such that whenever it receives a request from the farmer or when there is a condition it cannot rectify it sends that information immediately to the farmer,” said George Chege, Arinifu ICT officer during East Africa Farmers Digital conference last week at KALRO headquarters.
According to Chege, Waking up at night thinking or worrying about the chicks will be something of the past. Farmer(s) can get updates on their phones with much convenience, anywhere and at any time.
“Just with affordable SMS bundles from network operators, it will virtually cost very little.”
The device which requires electric or solar power to run and control the infrared lamps of 250 wats each and the catalogue computer is currently also able to control infrared catalytic gas brooders for heating requirements in the brooding space which is made safer for the chicks.
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Upande Limited samaki.ke mobile application
This app can be used to monitor fish pond condition, collects data and relay the information to the farmer in real time which is a relief to farmers they can control their fish ponds anytime anywhere.
The app which is free for downloads by users is now undergoing a pilot programme and has about five optional sensors; oxygen, nitrite and PH sensors which are integrated with the app. They collect data about the condition within the fish pond, transmit it to the app before it is relayed to the farmer.
“This app turns fish ponds into smart ponds that are connected to sensors and special cameras that relay information to farmers in real time on how the fish are doing. Through the sensors, a farmer gets data on the water temperature and if it is too cold or warm and adjust accordingly,” said Simon Ndarao, Upande Limited data scientist.
In addition the app helps in record keeping on farm efficiency, monitoring, sampling and fish growth analysis to be able to inform the farmer on what to do at which stage of fish growth analysis further showing a farmer how the business is faring.
“The app can do wonders. Once it is installed, a farmer can monitor the growth curve, whether they are making profits or losses. It makes record keeping easy,” said Ndarao.