Drones help farmers to cut spraying costs


Charles Agengo spraying coffee at a client’s farm. PHOTO | POOL

For many years in Kenya, farmers have relied on handheld sprayers or surveyors in mapping their farms or application of chemicals as countries such as Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa have for years been using drone technology for these activities.

However, the recent legalising of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, has come as a major boost to the farming community.

Farmers are now accessing this technology, which has been touted to cut costs and save on time taken to perform activities such as farming.

Several firms have come up to offer these services with large-scale farmers embracing the technology.

Mutheu Kithuma, a director with Kibwezi Agro Limited, said the use of drones has saved her farm between 30 and 40 per cent of chemicals that would have otherwise gone to waste if they were to employ the use of hand-held sprayer or a tractor-mounted one.

Ms Mutheu also says the usage of drones has reduced the time that would have taken them to spray from 14 days to two days.

“The use of drones in spraying is very efficient and saves us a lot of costs and the time that we spent in conducting this exercise,” said Ms Kithuma, who has embraced the technology on her 180-acre mango farm in Makueni County.

The multi-spectral drones can also be used to profile a certain farm and give the exact needs that crops in certain blocks would require such as calcium or potassium.

The firms offering commercial services include Adriana Innovations Limited and Astral Aviation through its Aerial Solution subsidiary.

Adriana offers drone enterprise and commercial solutions to various industries, including agricultural spraying, streaming virtual Reality, TV live streams, inspections, mapping and survey, high-end commercial cinematography.

“We can help you carry out crop spraying using drone technology for your farmlands.

“Using the drone spraying technology, we can resolve underperformance issues and potentially prevent significant downtime related to ‘traditional” ways of spraying crops,” said Charles Ageng’o, one of the firm’s directors.

“Our areas of drone spraying includes but not limited to insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, collectively known as pesticides.”

He said drone spraying is more accurate than other methods with the chemicals applied on the crops covering a wider area compared to the use of manned aircraft or handheld sprayer.

“With proximity to ground clearance with the drone together with the technologically advanced nozzles of the sprayer, a lot of chemicals will be saved in the spraying work.

“We can reduce pesticide use up to 30 per cent, which traduces into a less expensive, money-saving operation,” said Mr Ageng’o who is also the founder of the firm.

He graduated from Strathmore University with a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications in 2019. He received his Remote Pilot Licence (RPL/Drone Licence) certified by Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) in February 2021.

His other partner at the firm, Alex Sile, is an agronomist and the two have been able to blend their different backgrounds well into farming and technology.

The KCAA has received the approval to effect the new rules after Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia approved them under Legal Notice No.4 of 2021 on January 22.

The approval of the regulations paved the way for the full implementation of the unmanned aircraft systems regulatory framework in Kenya.