Buhari legacy

AirSmat drones are turning Nigerian farmers’ output into valuable data points

The traditional farming system in Nigeria is really simple: the farmers secure a piece of land, clear the bush, cultivate it with seeds, weed it once in a while, and wait for the harvest.

For many smallholder farmers, there is a little prediction of what the outcome of the harvest will be. Sometimes depending on where the weather goes, you may come out smiling or gnashing.

Even in the era of modern agricultural practices and with the increase in the adoption of technology, a heavy part of farming in Nigeria still depends on the traditional methods. This is largely due to the cost of acquiring technology and maintenance in case of wear and tear. Hence, farmers still suffer various forms of losses in output, which also means Nigeria continues to import many of the foods it could have conveniently grown within its territory.

Nigeria’s food import bill reached N261 billion within the first three months of 2020, showing that the country is largely dependent on external sources to augment local production, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show.

The value of imported agricultural goods for the period was 12 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 10.6 percent higher than the corresponding quarter of 2019.

Experts say that could likely change with drone technology. The use of drones in almost every sector of the economy is growing fast, but drone usage in the agriculture industry is booming. According to some reports, the agricultural drone market is expected to grow from a $2.1 billion industry in 2019 to 44.8 billion in 2024.

At a webinar recently, AirSmat showed how technology is transforming the agricultural sector.

Founded in 2019, AirSmat was founded with the aim of using drones to provide modern solutions to fast-growing industries in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The startup aims to encourage the use of drones in various industries. Drone technology has the ability to assist and positively change the way in which companies conduct their business.

The startup which secured $100,000 in a preseed round from UK-based Zetogon is turning its attention to the agricultural sector where it believes there is an opportunity to bring more precision to farmers’ output.

AirSmat’s simple approach is to help farmers in gathering data using drones. The data gathered enables the farmers to know the state of their crops, the health of the soil and make reasonable projections as to what the output will look like. Farmers can even predict the draught season which helps them make better decisions in planting their crops. Uche Olukoju, Vice President Business Operations, AirSmat said the plan is to reduce the cost of human monitoring of the farm which is not as effective as using drone technology.

“We can give you past and present data on your farm,” Olukoju said.

While drone use is becoming more useful to small farmers, there are still ways to go before they become part of every farmer’s equipment roster, particularly in Nigeria where there are still regulatory limitations. AirSmat, however, said it has already anticipated the obstacle is engaging the authorities to ensure that its drone operations are compliant with new and existing guidelines.

Farmers will be able to access AirSmat service free in the first one month of signing up. Afterward, the cost would be determined on a “needs” basis.