Agricultural drones: Togo joins the party
A Togolese technology innovation hub is trying to lure the country’s youth to fall in love with agriculture again, by introducing drones into the agriculture industry matrix.
The Togolese Local Digital Incubation Centre (CLIN SARLU) is a hub of start-ups working in the development of solutions for agriculture and sustainable development, and is the publisher of the e-agribusiness solution, a platform for linking actors in the agricultural sector. CLIN SARLU helps poor farmers living in the most remote areas without access to internet facilities or smartphones to find new markets for their products in local, regional and international markets, while also helping prospective buyers with relevant information to facilitate their purchases.
Working in the agriculture space, CLIN SARLU deals with information regarding market prices, weather patterns and agricultural solutions to remote farmers.
The hub’s founder Edeh Dona Etchri, who got his drone skills from China, the hub of drone technology, is convinced that the development of the agricultural drone industry in Togo and Africa remains a better way to bring young people back to the agricultural sector and create jobs.
Etchri’s incubation centre recently took farmers on a practical field exercise where they demonstrated how drone technology could an effective agricultural tool in three areas of Plot Analysis, Insecticide Treatment and fertiliser application. All these factors were tested on one farm.
Plot analysis focused on determining the numerical field model (NTM) and level curves for the plot in order to propose the orientation of the crop lines. The field team used an autonomous drone, plotting its flight schedule on the app beforehand and setting up things like flight height and overlap in order to obtain accurate results.
Data collected showed that some crops were not in proper lines as recommended farming methods intended.
“The seedling lines should have been perpendicular to the main slope, but on this particular field, the farmer oriented his seeding lines down the steep slope,” CLIN SARLU wrote in a recent report. “Poor orientation of seeding lines will cause soil water erosion, leaching of nutrients from the soil to low levels.
“At the end of the analysis, we advised the farmer to change the orientation of the lines in the coming season in order to improve his yield and reduce soil erosion.”
Insecticide treatment involved spraying the plot with an insecticide against caterpillars caused by lepidoptera attacks. Drone operators used approximately six litres of liquid fertiliser for this process.
“After the diagnosis on the level of reflectance of the plants, we made the application of water-soluble NPK compound fertilizer to correct places with low fertility levels, rationing the supply in accordance to the availability of fertiliser solution. The more fertiliser a farmer has, the higher the number of index class we can correct and the higher the processing area.
After the demonstration, farmers were happy pleased with the precision of the drones, because the treatment was fast and did not require as much muscle work.
The challenge remains to extend this technology to other farmers. The agricultural sector in Togo is complex as most farmers in remote areas are illiterate and often as not cannot afford technological implements to improve farming operations. The centre was confident however, that drone technology proved its usefulness for the development of the agricultural sector in Togo, as it has across the continent and around the world.
According to CLIN SARLU, Agriculture in Togo accounts for 86 percent of rural households – that is nearly four million farmers, who contributes 40 percent to the production of national wealth.