Joseph-Oliver Biley founded drone start up WeFly Agri in January 2017 to help farm and plantation owners regain control of their land.
In Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, entrepreneur Joseph-Olivier Biley is providing user-friendly, drone-enabled technologies to allow land and plantation owners to stay digitally connected to their farms. His company, WeFly Agri, delivers services such as interactive farm mapping, virtual reality (VR) farm tours, and a ‘remote employee monitoring tool’ to interact with employees on the ground. Since the launch of the company in 2017, WeFly drones have been used to survey and monitor over 40,000 ha of farmland for various clients.
Prior to establishment of his company, Biley’s father experienced issues of transparency and control on his rubber farm which he managed from afar. The employees, who had been provided with fertilisers and other inputs, were found to be using the supplies to start their own plantation. Biley asked himself: “What if my father could monitor his plantation remotely?” To provide such a solution, WeFly developed their employee monitoring tool, which allows farm managers to assign tasks digitally to their workers using a centralised SMS system, whilst receiving real-time information back from employees regarding work progress and task completion.
“Plantation owners typically subscribe to one interactive mapping a year, and at least one VR tour per month. They get to view their plantation from the comfort of their home, on their laptop or mobile phone from any location in the world,” says Biley. A client of the company, cashew nut farmer Jean Kouame says, “Driving hours every weekend became tiring. WeFly helped me manage my plantation without having to travel. It has brought confidence in my workers and improved my production.”
WeFly is also working with a 3,000-member cocoa cooperative to map more than 9,000 ha of land outside Abidjan. Once the plantations are mapped, the drones are used to provide images of farm evolution over time and real-time weather reports. This information, used in conjunction with aerial images of agriculture plots, is expected to help smallholders better access loans as evidence of collateral. “Most smallholder cooperatives are usually very traditional in data collection which makes them lose financial opportunities,” says Biley.
complement the drone services, WeFly has also developed a phone application
called ScanLeaf, which helps farmers diagnose and detect crop diseases. “The
majority of small farmers cannot afford the service of an agronomist. With
ScanLeaf, we turn their phones into an agronomist and, with a simple snap, they
get immediate diagnosis and good practices they have to follow,”
Biley explains. ScanLeaf has been piloted with 1,542 cocoa farmers and a further
46,000 farmers have recently signed up. As well as expanding services across
Cote d’Ivoire, the start-up is also in discussions with potential clients in
Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.