Farmers across Africa Now Embrace Drone Technology for Better Crop Yields

Considering the fact that the profitability of farming depends on seasons and weather among other things, African farmers are now embracing technology to increase their crop yields and combat plant diseases. They are beginning to invest in technology and other farming infrastructure so that they can earn higher revenues from their crop production.

Acquahmeyer in Ghana rents out drones to farmers to monitor crop health and determine where pesticides should be applied on farmlands. With the help of the drones, farmers can evaluate how well their crops are doing and reduce environmental pollution and health risks by using pesticides only where they are necessary.

COO of Acquahmeyer, Kenneth A. Nelson, said “Ghanaian vegetables were not making it to the EU countries because of pesticide residues on the fruit and vegetables,” but this is no longer a problem since the drones have reduced the need to spray insecticides across all farmlands – reducing the use of farm chemicals by 50% to meet EU regulatory limits.

The company rents out the drones to farmers who pay between $5 to $10 for the technology to assess their crops and apply required pesticides – per acre, for up to six times per year. Building each drone costs between $5,000 to $15,000 and each one can spray 10,000 acres in one year. Owning 10 drones, Acquahmeyer generates a profit of between $15,000 to $30,000 on each drone every year.

The agricultural company also trains local assistants on how to pilot and repair the drones during farming operations, thereby creating jobs in the process.

“In every farming community we have ambassadors for our company who are pilots and we are creating jobs,” Nelson said. “We want to make sure that technology and agriculture becomes an exciting job.”

In Uganda, most people are growing their own food as local farmers, selling the remaining to generate family income. Kwagala Farms, owned by Diana Nambatya Nsubuga, a Ph.D. holder in Public Health, started as a backyard farm in 2010. The farm grew and made money when Nsubuga trained other farmers on “urban farming” through the cultivation of crops on rooftops, tires, pipes and wooden shelves. She also taught them how to raise chicken on small poultry farms.

Nsubuga started with 50 cents of tomato seeds but has now branched out into cabbages, spinach, and carrots after beginning to make good revenue. She later purchased two cows and converted their dung to electricity through a biogas plant she installed on her farm. The waste generated from the biogas plant was sold as organic fertilizer to urban farmers for good money.

Kwagala Farms now generates $60,000 every year with nearly 80% of this coming from the sales of fertilizer produced on her farm. Nsubuga already trained 1,800 people on how to start their own urban farms and plans to train 2,000 more in the next three years. Her trainees already make a medium $5,000 per year from their own urban farms.

Esther Usman in northern Nigeria began growing maize when she was 17 after dropping out of school. Now 38 with her own children, she joined a farmers’ cooperative society, Babban Gona, which provides small-scale farmers with credit facilities and training to grow their own crops. Officials of Babban Gona take photos of people’s farms and upload the images to an app that determines the crops’ health, soil value, and required nutrients with solutions to identified farm problems.

Today, Usman does better with her maize production and generates enough money from stored grains to keep her children in school and live a quality life in her home state of Kaduna.