Thursday, July 25, 2024

Esther Kimani: Young Kenyan farmer wins Sh8 million for life-changing innovation

Esther Kimani, the founder of FarmerLifeLine Technologies in Kenya has won the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation organized by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Kimani was named the winner in the competition that brought together more than 80 innovators from across Africa,  for developing a solar-powered tool that uses AI to swiftly detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases, reducing crop losses for smallholder farmers.

Her innovation earned her Sh8.1million (£50,000), the largest ever awarded in the history of the Africa Prize, which she said will help her develop her device and expand its reach.

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“I aim to scale up my Innovation so that it can benefit one million farmers in Kenya in the next five years,” she said.

Speaking after receiving the award, Kimani said that she developed her innovation while undertaking her Computer Science degree course at the University of Eldoret.

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This is after she realized smallholder farmers in her village in Tigoni, Nyandarua county, were incurring huge losses due to pests and diseases.

“My parents would lose up to 40% of their crops each farming season, which affected our standard of living. We are empowering smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, to increase their income. We aim to scale to one million farmers in the next five years.” She said.

The solar-powered tool uses computer vision algorithms and advanced machine learning to detect and identify crop pests, pathogens or diseases, as well as the nature of the infection or infestation.

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The device then notifies the farmer via SMS. This affordable alternative to traditional detection methods leases for just $3 per month, significantly cheaper than hiring drones or agricultural inspectors.

She notes that the device also alerts government agricultural officers to the presence of diseases or pests, contributing to broader agricultural management efforts.

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