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Young innovator developed solar-powered technology

Farmers will be able to manage farming practices such as effective irrigation of their crops without necessarily being at their farms thanks to a solar-powered technology developed by Rwandan young innovators.

The technology uses solar-fueled sensors and irrigation to collect data on soil moisture, nutrient needs and water needed to foster crop growth.

It is in line with a project of Precise Agriculture (PA), a modern farming management model using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes that the innovators, members of the Kicukiro District-based STES Group, a company which was founded by technical innovators and researchers, have undertaken.

STES Group is made of members from different engineering disciplines (Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, Computer, Civil Engineering and Electrical Engineering). They started working on the technology in 2016.

According to experts in PA, instead of applying the same amount of fertilisers over an entire farmland, this farming model will measure variations in conditions within a given farm and adapt its appropriate fertilising or harvesting strategy.

The technique seeks to increase the quantity and quality of farm output (produce) while using less input (water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides, among others). The aim is to save costs, reduce environmental impact and produce more and better food.

“A person from Cyangugu (Rusizi District) can log in the application on their phone and they can for instance know that their farmland in Rwamagana District lacks water. They do not have to tell a person in Rwamagana to go and irrigate their farm, rather, as a person enters their phone to search contacts, there are many options in the application including automatic irrigation,” Narcisse Musabirema, 28, one of the team members who created the technology said.

The system costs between Rwf258,000 ($300) and Rwf430,000 ($500), according to Arsène Simbi Rutangira, the representative of the STES group.

How the system works
One sensor and automated irrigation device can work on one hectare, if it is a flat farmland. But, there should be availability of water in water tanks or dams as well as irrigation equipment such as drip irrigation tubes.

The system uses sensors that are put in the soil to measure the state of soil including temperature, moisture and humidity as well as nutrients levels so as to control them accordingly.

They use an online platform that goes by the name ‘farmbook’ which has various options including automatic irrigation, moisture and state of soil nutrients.

The arrangement, he said, allows a farmer to monitor what is happening on their farm while at home or elsewhere by use of a phone.

By using signal, the sensors tell a farmer to stop irrigating once the water that a crop needs is enough, he observed.


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