How Flying Farmer is using drones to revolutionise agriculture in Africa

Femi Adekoya, also known as the flying farmer, is revolutionizing Nigeria’s agriculture by giving drone-powered solutions to commercial and smallholder farmers.

Flying Farmer

Femi Adekoya, also known as the flying farmer, is revolutionizing Nigeria’s agriculture by giving drone-powered solutions to commercial and smallholder farmers.

If you had to farm a large expanse of land, irrigating and spraying for over 8hours carrying a heavy solution in a backpack while walking the whole farm, all to protect the crop from pests and diseases, would you be able to make accurate calculations? Imagine that even when you are done with the laborious work, you are not sure if the right quantity is applied at the appropriate section.

All you did was to make sure each plant is adequately reached and you pray that somehow the gods of the earth will come to your aid and do their work this time around at least you might just be lucky not to lose as much as you did the other time.  Certainly, the guesswork has been the magic that has helped many commercial and smallholder farmers in Africa for an extended period of time.

Despite the fact that other parts of the world have quite advanced in their use of precision, many farmers here still depend on probabilities and physical exhaustion, and it has led a lot of farmers to lose money, and some have even stopped the business completely because it appears to be uncertain and overbearing.

Fortunately, modern technologies offer the potential to alleviate some of the burdens of accurately monitoring growing crops.

Drones are one of those technologies; ordinarily, when people hear about drones, the first thing that comes to mind is capturing the aerial view of large areas using a camera; however, the use of drones goes way beyond that; they can be used to make farming more productive and sustainable. It not only handles gruelling crop protection tasks, but it does so much work accurately and consistently in a fraction of the time compared to manual labour.

Femi Adekoya, also known as the flying farmer, is revolutionizing Nigeria’s agriculture by giving drone-powered solutions to commercial and smallholder farmers.  Agriculture for him started when he was a child; he was fascinated by results; he liked the idea that he could plant something and watch it mature.

Once his interest was piqued, he started getting A's in agriculture throughout secondary school. He went ahead to study agriculture at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta. He always knew that he wouldn’t practise agriculture like a regular farmer as he was quite acquainted with the challenges faced, so he started towards technology as a solution.

He furthered his education by getting a master's in Integrated Pest Management from the United Kingdom through the commonwealth scholarship. He also got several certifications to improve his skills and became a UKCAA certified drone pilot.

How does the flying farmer work?

An Agricultural drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle used to help optimise agricultural operations, increase crop production and monitor crop growth.   Drone technology helps in gathering data that can help to monitor the crop.

During monitoring, it identifies issues that are not visible to the naked eyes, which will help the farmer make informed decisions for the crop. It is also used for precision farming and efficient spraying of weed controls or fertiliser to optimize field management.

The advantage is that the drone can cover a large expanse of land and touch every area mapped out without wearing out the farmer. Drone technology in agriculture helps prevent guesswork. There is more accuracy in determining the proper nutrient, and the appropriate care for the crop is given.  

What you need to know about the Integrated Aerial Precision (IAP)

IAP is an agricultural industry-focused drone service and analytics business that leverages UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology to improve agricultural productivity. They provide farmers with aerial intelligence and actions that empower them to do smart and precision-driven agriculture, leveraging drone technology and the power of data they generate.  

They are using drones fitted with sensors that can help farmers scout their field for early pest and disease detection enabled by artificial intelligence and in combination with in-house assembled spray drones fitted to autonomously spay crop care products.  

So far, smallholder farmers have been reached in clusters, and drone-powered solutions have been supplied to their farms. They also equip young people who are interested in agriculture with skills.

Due to the economic and literacy level of farmers in Nigeria, it is essential to determine their interest in drone technology; Femi Adekoya’s findings are fascinating.

He says that most farmers are sceptical about drones when introduced to them, but they become interested in using them when they see how the drones function and the result they produce. There is also limited education on operating drones; however, IAP is making a difference by making farmers know about drone technology and helping them use it in their farm operations.  

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Challenges in the midst of the revolutionization

Finance is a significant challenge with operating drones. The cost of producing drones and manning their parts is expensive. That is why funding is required to make them more readily available for farmers.

Regulation is also a problem in Nigeria. Drones cannot be flown in some places. There are strict rules guiding areas in that drones can be used, and this can be limiting in terms of the reach of drone technology. Femi Adekoya sees a future in the application of drones in agriculture in Nigeria and he believes that with more awareness of the use of this technology more youths will participate in agriculture.

It is a more difficult task to educate the old farming population about the adoption of drone technology; therefore, equipping more young people with technical education on the use of drones will help agriculture in Nigeria. Agriculture has been made more precise and accurate to what has been practised over the years. That is why we celebrate people like Femi Adekoya who are exploring technology-powered solutions and empowering other farmers.

This is a guest contribution from Mary Apeh, an Agricultural communications specialist.

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