News and knowhow for farmers

Young agritechnologist cuts farmer losses 30% through instant pest detection 

Still in her 20s, Esther Kimani is one of the most impactful agritech innovators in Kenya. Through her company, FarmerLifeLine, the Computer Science graduate is leveraging tech to help over 5,000 Kenyan farmers instantaneously detect and diagnose pests and/or diseases on their farms.

According to field trials on 400 farms, the technology has been shown to reduce yield losses by 30 per cent for 360 of the farmers. 40 per cent of the farmers also reported an increase in their production.

So sure is the company of the efficacy of its tech that it offers a cash-back guarantee for any farmer who does not achieve a 30-40 per cent increase in farm harvest within the first four months of using their device.

According to a 2023 report by the National Institutes of Health, each year, Africa loses half of its harvest to pests. Key to this is the delayed diagnosis or misidentification of these pests and diseases as well as the wrong application of farm chemicals.

“Our solar-powered crop pests and disease detection device can scan a farm and notify farmers of any crop pests or diseases through their phone. Once the device detects a crop pest or disease in the farm, it advises the farmer on what farm chemicals and fertilizers they should apply and where to buy them,” Esther explained.

The gathered data from the devices, which are in use by farmers in four counties, is then analysed and used to generate insights that drive data-guided policies and decisions within agriculture.

Before she began using the Farmer Lifeline device Marion Mburu, a kale farmer in Ruku, Kiambu County, harvested just 100 leaves daily. Now she has raised her yield almost fivefold to about 500 pieces each day.

“The device is convenient and cost-effective. I do not have to be on my farm scouting for any pests or diseases as I get a notification on my phone via an SMS whenever anything harmful is detected. This is coupled with advice on what I should apply and where I can buy it from,” she said.

The proprietary pathogen detection device is primarily solar-powered. It has 48 hours of battery life and isn’t affected by the rain. The camera has a 730 meter 180-degree radius scanning capacity and captures crop images periodically through computer vision algorithms that study captured pictures for the presence of any pests or diseases. 

The device is leased to farmers for Sh100 a month and has a lifespan of five to 10 years.

For their work in helping tackle the pest burden in Kenya, Esther Kimani and FarmerLifeLine have been the recipients of numerous awards: 2023 vijana na agribiz competition, COMESA Award, African Agrihack, TotalStartUpper, 2022 GoGettaz, AWIEF African award, COP27 Youth Adapt among others.

The company can be reached at: 

+254 700 093587

esther19kimani.com

Photo Courtesy: FarmerLifeLine

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