Mobile apps making farm work easier, 'cooler' - Daily Nation

Mobile apps making farm work easier, 'cooler'

Saturday August 6 2016

A computer screenshot of the Dairylive application.

A computer screenshot of the Dairylive application. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN OKINDA
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Eliud Sawe, the proprietor of Kapsurwa Farm in Sugoi, taps a button on his smartphone and details of one of his calves appear on the phone’s screen.

He then proceeds to check the subsequent deworming date for the calf and its current weight according to the last record entered in its data sheet.

“This application has made it easy to manage and track the records of all my 357 cows in the farm,” says Sawe, speaking about the revolutionary Dairylive, a dairy farmers’ application, which works as more of an assistant to the farmer.

Elsewhere in Ruai, Nairobi, using a laptop in his farm, Placido Nkonge, checks the milk production patterns of one of his milker cows named “Gakii”, whose records are in the application.

A dairy farmer, Nkonge embraced Dairylive only three months ago and appreciates its uses already. He says it has never disappointed him.

“I get timely and accurate data, records and reminders about each of my dairy cows whenever I want and regardless of my location as the application is easily accessible through my smartphone too,” he says.

Dairylive is a Windows devices based application that can also be integrated and synchronised with the farmers’ other devices such as a tablet or smartphone running any of the available operating systems; Android, Windows, iOS and Sailfish among others.

The application, which was conceptualised by Living Software, an American software company, enables electronic identification through the use of electronic microchips too.

KEEPING TRACK OF RECORDS

“Dairylive is able to keep the individual records of all your dairy cattle in the farm, ranging from breeding, health, calving, feeding habits and registry to the livestock’s growth and reproduction among others,” says Titus Ndegwa, the head of agribusiness at the Procurement Technical and Agricultural Centre (PTAC) and also the application’s sole developers and partners in Kenya.

The application is capable of keeping track of the records of all of one’s livestock, irrespective of their number, giving you the luxury of accessing any information at the click of a button, according to Ndegwa.

It is especially important during marketing of the livestock as the records, which also contain the photographs of the particular cow, can be sent to the prospective buyers, without the buyer having got to visit the farm personally then.

The potential buyer can thereafter visit the farm to establish certain aspects which maybe in doubt.

The application also makes it easy to document and store other important information regarding the farmers’ livestock, without doing it manually, using record books and files.

Titus Ndegwa, the head of agribusiness at the Procurement Technical and Agricultural Centre (PTAC).

Titus Ndegwa, the head of agribusiness at the Procurement Technical and Agricultural Centre (PTAC), and also the applications' developers and partners in Kenya. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

According to Dr Maryanne Karani who lectures at the Animal Health International Training Institute (AHITI), Kabete and also a dairy farmer in Keumbu, Kisii, the application conveniently enables a farmer to distinguish animals which are not productive from the productive ones using the records, especially for culling purposes.

At the moment, however, the application works well only on dairy cattle and hasn’t yet been fully configured to be entirely pertinent to other dairy animals such as goats, but developments for that function are ongoing, according to Joshua Muthami PTAC’s project coordinator.

The organisation is also developing another flagship application called M-FES (Mobile Farm Extension Services), a mobile phone based application that offers farming extension services to farmers even in isolated areas.

The application is intended to help small scale farmers adopt technology at a manageable cost but enjoy the same extensions services as large and medium scale farmers.

EXTENSION SERVICES

It records farmer’s details, farm information and location, and nearby extension services.

The field officers can then collect the data concurrently helping the farmers get the reports of their farms’ queries fast.

M-FES however works best within farmers who come together to form agricultural cooperatives, groups and unions, to ease dissemination of the necessary, required information collectively.

It also enables farmers to identify particular nearby collection points for their produce, as it incorporates the use of Global Positioning System (GPS), to identify the farmers’ locations and nearby centres for produce collection and other agricultural services.

Farmers can also post their queries on farming, and animal and crop diseases to farming extension services officials through the application and receive their replies through the same or extension service personnel deployed in the various regions under the application’s coverage.

According to Ezra Mitoko, an ICT expert in farming from Simbanet Group, ICT integration in farming constantly serves the purpose of lessening the farmers’ expenses burdens in different farming ventures.

He mentions that seeds, fertiliser and animal feeds, among other farming inputs can now be purchased easily online and delivered to the farmers through courier, saving the farmer the time and expenses, while mobile money transfer platforms come in handy for making the payments for the purchases.

Mitoko also adds that extension services can also be carried out through mobile applications and short message services (SMS), as demonstrated effectively in use in countries such as Rwanda.

Kiringai Kamau, the Programme Lead at the Centre for Agricultural Networking and Information Sharing (CANIS), concurs with this.

ICT INTEGRATION IN AGRICULTURE

Kiringai alludes that, though not exclusively well developed in the country’s agricultural sector, ICT should be embraced as it is the driving force, not only in farming per se, but also in other related sectors such as agricultural industrialization.

Prof George Odhiambo, the head of the Faculty of Agriculture in Maseno University, agrees that although ICT is not widely used in farming at the moment, it ought to be embraced and integrated into daily farming practices.

He says farmers making use of such applications have an easier time accessing their farms’ information and records regardless of their location away from their farms.

Marketing of produce, which he mentions as the task in which it is intensively employed, is also made a lot easier through ICT driven trading platforms.

He says ICT, in more ways draw youth especially, to farming and agricultural practices.

According to Ronald Kimitei of Egerton University, ICT enables farmers to easily access different offered services, therefore saving on travelling costs and hassles involved in the numerous farming transactions.

Its downside is that most of the farmers are advanced in age and may find it hard to adapt to the new technologies and let go of their traditional farming methods.

Young people however are using this to participate more in agriculture, as they are more drawn towards ICT and modern innovations wherever they work.

Validated ICT technologies are essentially highly recommended, providing the necessary knowledge and assistance to the farmers.