How drone technology is being infused into farming in Kenya

Agriculture in Kenya is being revolutionised with the infusion of drone technology into farming activities.

This comes at a time when there is an urgent need to increase food security by increasing agricultural yield in Kenya.

The Kenya Drone Business Competition chose 10 youth from across the country to come up with innovative ways of how drones can be used in farming to improve crop yield and production in Kenya.

"The Kenyan Drone Business Competition, organised in partnership with Global Air Drone Academy and Kenya Flying Labs, aims to foster innovation and develop the entrepreneurial abilities of young technology entrepreneurs in Kenya," Co-founder of Global Air Drone Academy Eno Umoh said.

The youth were engaged physically in drone flying demonstrations as they were being taught how to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Of the 10 youth who took part in the competition include Eve Lelei, who emerged among the top three finalists.

Lelei works as a Geographic Information Systems and Urban planner.

Though she is not a farmer, Lelei has processed drone images and works with farmers advising them on the best agricultural practices based on studies from drone images captured on their farms.

″We provide solutions to different sectors including agriculture. We are able to advise based on the spatial information, the data and drone images on suitable places to do what type of farming, advise on crop health analysis and precision farming,″ Lelei said.

In precision agriculture, Lelei said drones create highly detailed maps of farmland, including soil type and topography.

The data can be used to plan planting and harvesting schedules, optimise irrigation and fertiliser usage, and manage pests and diseases more effectively.
Basically, the drones give farmers information to help boost agricultural production as they can tell the type of soil in the area, the moisture content and nutrients the soil could be lacking.

″For instance, from the drone images, you can be able to analyse the situation like the soil content and moisture content then advise. If a farmer is planning to plant X type of crops, you tell them that this farm is actually suitable for crop Y and not crop X. It helps in avoiding planting haphazardly which causes farmers to end up with low yields,″ she explained.

Lelei said the drones use different types of lenses. They are RGB lenses (Red, Green, blue) which are for a normal photo.

But for more detailed information on the farm, one uses a drone with a multi-spectral sensor to fly over an area.

″ With the images that are taken by a multi-spectral sensor, looking at the vegetation cover, we use what we call indices (soil and vegetation indices). From the image you are able to analyse the different information about the index, whether it is the soil index or the vegetation Index, to be able to determine perhaps the moisture content in the soil or if there are stress factors that could affect the productivity of a certain crop in that soil,″ Lelei said.

It is from the information derived from the images captured by the drone that various indices are derived.

The information from the indices determines the advice given to farmers.

Lelei said drones can also be used in crop spraying.

That there are specialised drones for spraying crops with herbicides and pesticides.

She said drone spraying is more cost-friendly, especially in large-scale farming as opposed to having someone spray through the crops.

Drones are also more precise and accurate and help reduce wastage during spraying, subsequently reducing the environmental impact.

″A person can also use a drone to broadcast fertilisers and granular seeds on their farm,″ she said.