AcquahMeyer: From spraying crops to spraying market places

WASHINGTON – Towards the end of 2017 in Accra, Ghanaian pilot Eric Acquah founded AcquahMeyer Drone Tech, a crop spraying subsidiary of Acquahmeyer Aviation, which specialised on using drones to spray pesticides on crops.

Uptake of drone technology for precision agriculture by local farmers was slow at first, but once they got they hang of it, business started picking up; to the extend that Eric was planning to expand operations into Cameroon, Cote D’ivoire, Uganda and Baukina Faso.

But then COVID-19 had other plan for 2020. When the disease arrived in west Africa, everything came to a standstill, and Eric had to turn to a new challenge – using his drones to save the lives of Ghanaians affected by the pandemic.

“We went from helping field crops rid themselves of pesticides to sanitising public places,” says Eric. “We targeted the market areas because in Africa they are open-air and always overpopulated. If Coronavirus was going to spread fast, then market areas would be the most affected.”

The company used 20 drones to disinfect about 38 open-air markets in Ghana, spraying a couple of acres in minutes, a job that would normally take a dozen fumigators and several hours.

“Just closing the borders and quarantining the whole country wouldn’t make sense unless there is a mass disinfection of places where people gather in larger numbers,” the founder of AcquahMeyer Drone Tech told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A technician flies a drone to spray the streets along the French Riviera city of Cannes, southern France, on April 10, 2020. Drones have been used to sanitise public places in Coronavirus times (Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP)

The markets have since re-opened, with everyone wearing masks and social distancing, and traders and buyers said they felt safer. Acquah is now lobbying for funds to disinfect school classrooms and other public areas – at about $15 per acre.

Acquah is just one of a host of African innovators helping poor households safely navigate these pandemic times which has so far infected more than 640,000 people in Africa with more than and taken at 14,000 lives. Food security experts have warned that as the pandemic persists, so too will the danger of starvation and poverty, as national lockdowns and border closures have resulted in job losses and unprecedented economic freefalls.

AcquahMeyer may yet a difference in Togo and Benin too, as Eric these countries have expressed interest in using his drone service to disinfect public spaces on a tight budget.

“We want to offer subsidised services,” he said.

“This epidemic has crippled a lot of economies. Right now, we are not looking to make profit. We started this company in the first place to give back to Africa.”

Additional Material: Reuters

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