Delivering medical supplies… for livestock

When you think of drone-based technologies in agriculture, the first thought that may come to mind may be DJI and its Agras repertoire of sprayer drones, and XAG and its P- and V-series of sprayer drones.

Remote sensing will also come to mind, what with drones now being used to collect agricultural data that include crop and soil health analysis, survey and mapping; livestock management; among a few others.

But who would think that drones could be used to deliver medical supplies that can save several lives of livestock?

Because that is exactly what entered the minds of drone logistics company Zipline and Cowtribe – a Ghanaian start-up that supports livestock farmers in the west African country – when cases of anthrax started sprouting among cattle in the Binduri District in the upper east region of Ghana.

When the East Regional Health Directorate in Ghana reported two suspected cases of anthrax among cattle in the district in June last year, the government knew it needed to respond quickly to prevent an emergency.

After all, anthrax poses a mortal danger to livestock and can potentially spread to humans.

Luckily, Zipline already had established roots in Ghana, having first entered the country in 2018. The company also had a standing partnership with Cowtribe; such that, shortly after confirming the anthrax cases, the Ghana Veterinary Services Directorate called on Zipline and Cowtribe to deliver anthrax vaccines to the area.

“Within six days, Zipline and Cowtribe delivered 100,000 doses of anthrax vaccines to agrovets in fifteen districts in Ghana,” the drone delivery company said recently.

“Those agrovets used the doses to vaccinate cattle, protecting livestock — a crucial economic resource for local farmers — and preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases.

“The coordinated approach between Zipline, veterinary professionals, and public officials contained the outbreak within the month.”

This is now a familiar sight in most parts of Ghana. Picture: Zipline

Zipline – which recently celebrated making one million commercial deliveries worldwide – added that its structures were well equipped to make ramped up vaccine deliveries in response to outbreaks and integrate with national campaigns to prevent the spread of disease.

“In response to the devastating anthrax outbreak, we are extending the reach of our drone technology to deliver life-saving vaccines to the most remote locations,” said Mawuli Atiemo, General Manager for Zipline Ghana at the time.

“This effort mirrors our previous collaboration with the government during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, where we successfully delivered over two million vaccines to multiple dosing centres.”

For instance; “In 2023, Zipline delivered 500,000 doses of vaccines against Rift Valley Fever — another zoonotic disease — to support semi-annual vaccination campaigns by the Rwandan Agricultural Board. 

“In 2023, Zipline also delivered a total of more than twelve million doses of animal health vaccines as either part of regular vaccination campaigns or emergency outbreak response.”

Peter Awin, co-founder and CEO of Cowtribe said his company was only happy to step and help with the situation.

“Cowtribe remains deeply committed to our farming communities, especially during such crises,” he said.

“By funding the initial production of 100,000 anthrax vaccine doses, we aspire to alleviate the severity of the outbreak and fortify the livelihoods of our farmers.”

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