Kenyan AI Agriculture Pest Detection Tool Wins 10th Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation in Nairobi

Kenyan AI Agriculture Pest Detection Tool Wins
Esther Kimani

On June 13, 2024, in Nairobi, Esther Kimani became the most recent recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, the continent’s highest engineering distinction. Her ground-breaking invention, a solar-powered instrument that uses cameras to harness AI and machine learning, has completely changed how agricultural illnesses and pests are found and identified. This technical marvel increases yields by an astonishing 40% while simultaneously reducing crop losses for smallholder farmers by up to 30%.

Five million smallholder farmers in Kenya alone struggle with incredible crop losses caused by pests and diseases, which average 33% yearly. By providing real-time alerts five seconds after detecting an infestation, Kimani’s technology ushers in a new era. These alerts improve broader agricultural management initiatives by informing government agricultural officers and providing farmers with customized intervention measures.

The comprehensive application of cutting-edge machine learning and computer vision algorithms forms the basis of Kimani’s invention. These allow the tool to quickly identify crop pests, illnesses, or pathogens and provide specific details on the type of infection or infestation. At only $3 a month, the device offers farmers an inexpensive substitute for traditional detection techniques, as opposed to the expensive employment of drones or agricultural inspectors. Once found, the device instantly tells farmers via SMS.

The Africa Prize was established in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Engineering with the goal of fostering scalable and sustainable engineering solutions that are adapted to regional difficulties throughout Africa. With the help of roughly 150 entrepreneurs from 23 different countries, the Prize has throughout the years created a thriving community that has benefited over 10 million people with innovative goods and services and created over 28,000 employment.

The Africa Prize Alumni Reunion, held in honor of the Royal Academy of Engineering on its tenth anniversary, brought together one hundred innovators from the previous ten years for a stimulating three days of programming that preceded the grand finale. The strong sense of camaraderie among the Prize’s alumni community was highlighted by this event.

Esther Kimani gave moving explanations of her inspiration, recounting how her parents’ livelihood was severely impacted by crop losses that may reach 40% every agricultural season. Her invention has the potential to increase the incomes of many smallholder farmers, especially women. As evidence of her dedication to revolutionizing agriculture throughout the continent, Kimani plans to scale her solution to assist one million farmers in the next five years.

During the Prize’s historic tenth year, Malcolm Brinded, a prominent person at the Royal Academy of Engineering, emphasized the organization’s continued commitment to African inventors by pointing out contributions over £1 million made through grants, prizes, and accelerator programs.

The most sum of money ever given to a Prize winner, KSh 8.3 million, was given to Kimani in appreciation of her accomplishment to help her continue developing her ground-breaking invention. Four more finalists made their riveting business pitches in front of a live audience of over 700 people and a distinguished panel of judges during the competition’s final round.

The event also honored the runners-up, Kevin Maina from Kenya, Martin Tumusiime from Uganda, and Rory Assandey from Côte d’Ivoire. For their inventive contributions to waste management solutions, AI-driven health services, and sustainable roofing materials, respectively, they were each given KSh 2.5 million. Furthermore, Dr. Abubakari Zarouk Imoro was awarded the ‘One to Watch’ title and £5,000 in recognition of his significant invention, Myco-Substitutes, which has the potential to revolutionize regional communities.

Future-focused, the sub-Saharan African region’s individuals and small teams are welcome to submit ideas for the 2025 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which has been announced by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The initiative’s goal is to find scalable engineering solutions that address urgent local issues, highlighting the critical role that innovative engineering plays in promoting sustainable development and economic prosperity.

As a lighthouse of opportunity, the Africa Prize supports the most brilliant minds capable of tackling global issues and advancing Africa’s technological development. The Academy’s website has comprehensive information for anyone interested in sponsoring or collaborating on the Africa Prize. Join us as we use engineering brilliance to shape the future of Africa.


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