Smart agriculture: Using drones to improve efficiency

An agri-tech start up in Côte d’Ivoire is using drones to help farmers increase production by intelligently managing their plots.

Investiv uses drones to map farmers’ land and help them manage resources more efficiently © Investiv

Aboubacar Karim, a 23-year-old from Côte d’Ivoire, has made it his mission to put an end to agricultural losses as a result of poor crop management. “We can’t carry on farming in the same way our grandparents did, using the same hoes and machetes that people have been using for 300 years,” says Karim, who holds a degree in agricultural economics from Canada’s Université Laval.

Karim’s field mapping company, Investiv, launched its first drone service in May 2017. The firm’s six drones – each equipped with multispectral imaging cameras and operated by internally-trained pilots – produce agricultural land-use maps to pinpoint areas of crop disease, poor soil fertility or under-hydration. The company then analyses the data so that farmers can take appropriate action, for instance by fine-tuning fertiliser and disease control product dosages or using water and inputs more efficiently. Customers can also log into Investiv’s land management platform to view the latest data on their farms. “With Investiv’s help, I’ve managed to improve my yields,” says farmer Abel Bléon, who runs a hydroponic farm in Azaguié, around 45 km from Abidjan.

“To date, we’ve mapped more than 5,000 ha of farmland for around 30 customers,” says Karim. “That’s more than 100 assignments in eight different cities in Côte d’Ivoire, and demand keeps on growing.” Investiv currently employs nine permanent staff and 13 contract workers. Its customers include Côte d’Ivoire’s National Rice Development Office; Investiv uses drones to fly over rice plots to determine which areas lack sufficient water and then provide advice on how to better irrigate the plots.

In 2017, Investiv received support worth US$10,000 (€8,500) from the Tony Elumelu Foundation – consisting of 12 weeks of training and access to a network of entrepreneurs – to kick-start the business. “That was my first experience of entrepreneurship and business training,” admits Karim. “Like lots of tech start-ups, I had big ideas but hadn’t really considered how they’d benefit farmers.” The training from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, coupled with mentor guidance and an opportunity to test its solutions in the field, enabled Investiv to refine its services and tailor them to specific contexts and crops (mainly bananas, rice and cotton).

*For more information on Investiv’s activities, visit: https://bit.ly/2ygLxa4

Inoussa Maïga

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.