Agriculture is a key and fast-growing industry in Africa. Parrot-AIRINOV teamed up with CTA* (The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation created by the European Union) to help tech start-ups develop precision agriculture particularly all over the African continent, enabling farmers to improve their ROI while respecting the environment.
There is a general consensus that smallholder farming needs to become more productive, more sustainable and more profitable. Drone-based systems/services can contribute towards these goals by bringing some of the tools of precision agriculture to producers, which include large and medium-scale holdings and associations of small-scale farmers growing the same crop in contiguous areas. Typically, drone services are provided by entrepreneurs who invest in the equipment, acquire the skills to use it, conduct or sub-contract data analysis, interpret the findings and advise their customers.
Drones can help increase the ROI and create new knowledge-intensive employment opportunities in rural areas, offering educated rural youth an alternative to migration.
Recognising the opportunities provided by drones, in 2016 CTA partnered with Parrot-AIRINOV to train and equip ICT start-ups in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and a government institution in Jamaica in acquiring the capacity to deliver drone-based services. With the assistance of Parrot-AIRINOV, CTA organised a series of activities including training on the operation of drones and mounted multispectral sensors, understanding of safety and privacy principles and regulations, management and processing of remote sensed data, development of business plans and networking opportunities. In addition, CTA provided some financial support for the acquisition of necessary equipment. The training events took place in Paris in March and November 2017. Two articles were published in relation of the events on ‘Le Monde Afrique’ Drones agricoles : sept « ambassadeurs » africains formés à Paris (April 19, 20170 and En Afrique, des drones au service de l’agriculture de précision (December 27, 2017).
Thanks to the presence of a competent and entrepreneurial UAS operator in Rwanda (Charis Unmanned Aerial Services) and a very enabling environment (strong government support to digital innovations) and the possibility of upscaling UAS service operations in Eastern Africa, CTA and Parrot-Airinov pooled resources and supported a project aimed at calibrating of the diagnostic model for nitrogen fertilization on wheat in Rwanda.
On 26 January 2018, by issuing Decision EX.CL/Dec. 986-1007 (XXXII), the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), requested the AU and Member States to harness drones for agriculture as a selected emerging technology of relevance for the development of the African continent.
In line with this continent-wide policy recommendation, CTA decided to support an increase in the number of supported drone operators and countries covered across Africa. In this context, CTA has launched a 2018-2019 project focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa, known as “Transforming African agriculture: Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground”. Parrot-AIRINOV agreed to partner in the project by offering CTA-supported drone operators the opportunity to purchase equipment (Disco Pro Ag or Bluegrass) at discounted rates.
Over a two-year time span, the “Eyes in the Sky” Project is meant to result in approximately 30 establish business-oriented and sustainable African drone service providers, most run by young entrepreneurs in African countries where enabling legislation is in place. The enterprises will offer a range of drone-based advisory services including real-time advice to farmers.
*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). It operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement.