Though she is young, at only 26 years old, Esther Wanjiru Kimani, is not only making waves locally but internationally too, due to her pest and disease contraption.
The young computer science expert, who hails from a farming family at Aberdares area in Nyandarua County, has been winning awards for her digital innovation that is able to predict and detect pests and diseases on a farm, following which it warns the farmer about the problem by sending an SMS to their phone.
In the message, it also advises the farmer on the management practice or pest control method he or she can adopt to control the menace.
Among the recognitions that her company, Farmer Lifeline Technologies, a Kenyan agritech startup that helps farmers get ahead of pests and pathogens by enabling timely detection of crop pests and crop diseases, has received, featured in, and won include a COMESA Award, African Agrihack, TotalStartUpper, 2022 GoGettaz competition and AWIEF African among others.
“We also scooped an award under Youth Adapt at the UN Conference of Parties (COP27) Egypt 2022 thanks to GCA, AFDB, and CIF for support,” says the innovator.
“Our technology has also had recommendations by governments, non-governmental organisations and AGRA among others, and we are encouraged by this,” she adds.
According to the young expert, this device which leverages on artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and machine learning and has multiple small camera modules interfaced to a computer system, has gone through a series of tests and proven effective by majority of smallholder farmers within Kenya and outside the country.
“I am happy that many women, who account for over 60 per cent of farmers and who have used the device, have been able to reduce losses on their farms by more than 40 per cent meaning that they have improved their livelihoods and narrowed economic inequality gap between them and men.”
The company has also collaborated with a Canadian NGO to run a test among 400 farmers in the country of which 360 who used the technology recorded a 40 per cent production increase and 30 per cent reduction in losses.
According to the young innovator, the cutting-edge technology promotes sustainable farming practices and helps smallholder farmers adapt to climate change by encouraging behavior change.
“By suggesting the use of farm chemicals and fertilizers, the device empowers farmers to take a more environmentally friendly approach to agriculture,” she says.
The gadget, Patent No:KE/UM/2023/2015 comes with a camera that is solar powered and can operate even during rainy seasons. It has a power retention capacity of 48 hours, making it effectively detect crop diseases and pests over a 730-metre radius.
“The camera system is programmed to capture images of the crops in the field periodically and processes the images using advanced computer vision algorithms to determine the nature of the infection or infestation, any pests or pathogens,” she adds.
How Patent No:KE/UM/2023/2015 device works
Mounted at the centre of a farm the device scans the area by rotating and frequently taking pictures.
The camera has a long footing usually put into the soil with the camera-ball interface overlooking the plants or farm to detect and predict crop diseases, pathogens, and pests’ infections.
In case a pest is recognised or disease identified, the data is sent to an analytic dashboard for analysis and results sent to the farmer through an SMS for action.
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