DigiFarm, a subsidiary of Safaricom Company has introduced the use of drones in spraying chemicals to crops on selected farms in Western and Nyanza regions.
The pilot project was launched in Migori County with the spraying of bean crops. The Company is expected to carry out a similar trial in Bungoma in the next two weeks, this time focusing on spraying of coffee plantations.
Speaking during an exhibition of new technologies on farming at the Kakamega Golf Hotel grounds, Western Regional DigiFarm Manager, Amos Kibet, said that they have partnered with Astral, a licensed drone company that will enable them to provide drone services to farmers.
“We have partnered with Astral who have certified pilots to fly the drones in spraying chemicals to farms,” he pointed out.
He said, once the program is successful, it will be rolled out across the country. Currently they are charging Sh630 per acre of land as a fee for the drone, with the farmer expected to provide the required chemicals for spraying.
Kibet says initial trials have shown that it takes only five minutes to spray chemicals on one acre of land using a drone.
“One acre will be sprayed within five minutes and due to the technology, it is efficient because it has sensors which makes it accurate,” he noted.
He says they are targeting lower crops or others which are still in their early stage of maturity before they extend beyond the knee.
He explained that drone sprayers are able to navigate hard to reach areas and they can be targeted to specific areas to maximize efficiency and save costs.
Areas targeted for the drone spraying services are rice in Ahero, and West Kano plains and to farmers who grow potatoes, coffee and beans among other crops in Western and Nyanza regions.
Kibet also noted that DigiFarm will also utilize drones to map out the location of its registered farmers and their acreage of land.
“Through the coordinates that will be obtained using the drones, we shall be able to monitor weather patterns on behalf of our registered farmers,” he noted.
DigiFarm provides farmers with access to quality farm inputs such as feeds, fertilizer, seeds, agro-chemicals and mineral supplements for livestock and dairy.
“Our main agenda is to transform smallholder farmers into profitable farmers,” said Kibet.
Kibet promised that the company is ready to walk the journey with the farmers by providing access to credit facilities, quality input and training on best farming practices.
“We also have linkages to markets where we link up our registered farmers once their produce is ready,” he pointed out.
In addition, Kibet said once they register with DigiFarm, farmers are set to benefit from insurance covers which guarantees their returns in cases of vagaries of weather such as drought, excessive rainfall and also life assurance cover in case of death of a registered member.
In Kakamega, the company has registered over 5,000 farmers with its presence in Likuyani, Butere and Lugari Sub counties.
Currently, DigiFarm is serving 88, 000 farmers across 22 counties in the country but has 1.5 million registered through the mobile platform.
For one to join DigiFarm, Kibet says they have to dial *944# through their Safaricom line where they will follow instructions and will be ready to receive services.
By Margaret Andeso