Farm where cell phone fills, drains fish ponds

Saturday February 18 2017

Philip Adamba (left)shows fish farmer Philip Maritim how to use the BSR gadget to run activities in his farm in Uasin Gishu.

Philip Adamba (left)shows fish farmer Philip Maritim how to use the BSR gadget to run activities in his farm in Uasin Gishu. The appliance is capable of performing a host of farm activities. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STANLEY KIMUGE
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Standing next to a fish pond on a farm in Kapsaret, Eldoret, Philip Adamba fidgets on his smart phone endlessly.

Soon, the phone rings and water starts to flow immediately from three taps into the fish ponds.

It looks like magic for first-timers, but for Adamba, this is his life. The young innovator has developed a mobile phone system that allows farmers to monitor and control their fish farms.

They do this by dialling codes that send signals to a gadget fitted with a sim-card next to the fish pond.

On this day, Adamba, 27, was at a fish farm belonging to Philip Maritim, 66, one of the farmers using the system.

The farm has four ponds with tilapia and ornamental fish. He also has three aquariums.

“Maritim only needs to dial a number and then key commands like switching taps on or off,” he says.

Adamba dropped out of the African Institute of Research and Development Studies in Eldoret, where he had enrolled for a diploma in electrical engineering in 2007.

It took him about 10 years to develop the gadget. In that time, he bought 30 new phones at an average of Sh3,000 each which he dismantled to find out how they work.

And last year, after testing it and discovering that it was working well, he patented the gadget. It has a circuit, a Sim-card and a battery.

“A phone is not just a gadget for communication but it can also be used to irrigate a farm, water and even drain a fish pond by dialling a number,” says Adamba.

LUXURY OF TRAVELLING

He has installed the system for 15 farmers in Eldoret, Kitale and Nakuru. 

Maritim embraced it last October and paid Sh15,000 for it.

An automated fish pond in Maritim's farm in Uasin Gishu.

An automated fish pond in Maritim's farm in Uasin Gishu. The farm has four ponds with tilapia and ornamental fish and three aquariums. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Each tap at the pond is connected to the gadget and so I can command a specific tap, or all of them at a go to fill the pond,” said the retired civil engineer.

“Since my fish ponds are made of concrete, there is no sippage, I lose water mainly through evaporation. I, therefore, ensure that water is added to the ponds once in two weeks, especially during dry spells,” says Maritim.

The farmer used to keep cows but switched to aquaculture because his farm workers were unreliable.

“Every time I returned home, I would find the cows had not been fed properly. With this system, my work has never been easier,” he explains.

While it does many other functions, it’s the mode of watering and draining of the ponds that makes the system unique.

The technology, according to Maritim, has helped him to bring down the running costs. “I don’t need to employ many workers as I can do most things myself using the technology. Sometimes workers can lie but the system cannot,” he says.

Now he can afford the luxury of travelling outside the farm and still run it as long as there is internet connectivity.

Power back-up is required just in case of black-outs.

RUN IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Adamba has patented the gadget at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute, calling it BSR. The B, he says, is an inverted P for his name Philip, S for sensitive and R for revolutionary.

Maritim displays one of the aquariums in the farm.

Maritim displays one of the aquariums in the farm. The BSR works in controlling the water levels of all these structures in the Uasin Gishu farm. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“What inspired me was the need to reduce farmers’ reliance on workers and also to secure a farm as the less number of people involved, the safer it is,” he says.

Apart from draining the ponds, the BSR can be used to run an irrigation system, setting the time when water is to flow in drip and sprinkler systems.

It also has a sensor to determine the soil moisture and notify the farmer about it before the water starts to drip.

Adamba scored a B– in the 2006 his final Form Four exams at Cheptiret Secondary School.

He says he developed an interest in engineering when he was in Standard 6. He would dismantle radios and restore them and also make electronic toys.