INVESTIV uses drones to help farmers improve their crops and productivity with information on soil quality and plant health conditions. The Ivory Coast startup has mapped and monitored over 13,000 hectares of land is spraying crops with pesticides and fertilizer at many small and larger farms. Aboubacar Karim explains to Club Africa how his firm contributes to ‘precision agriculture’.
Aboubacar Karim is a firm believer of the value that drones can add to agriculture, even for the smallest of companies. The young ‘agripreneur’, founder and CEO of INVESTIV is a pioneer in the use of drones in agriculture in West Africa. With drones, Karim and his team of 32 employees (12 full-time, 20 part-time) offer invaluable insights to farmers on the state of their land and crops. With these insights, farmers know with precision the state and the dimensions of their land. They can better monitor the growth of their crops and discover plagues at an early stage and reduce the losses related to phytosanitary problems.
The young ‘agripreneur’ explains: “Precision agriculture means having the right tools to make the right decisions as a farmer. The right decisions to save time, to use less resources and money to produce more. How to maximise production with less means and input. We introduce new methods into agriculture to do all of that. With our drones, we help agricultural companies to improve productivity and performance, saving time and loss of crops. The drones help in getting the right overview of the land as well as in real farm management.”
Aboubacar Karim is proud of the trust he has earned in Ivory Coast with drone technology. “We work with many categories of clients, including small as well as big companies, agricultural cooperatives, institutions that fund agricultural projects, government institutions, agricultural businesses and NGOs that support the agricultural sector.”
“We can help control the state and dimensions of a farmer’s land. In the implementation of an agricultural project, it is important to have an overview of the agricultural parcel, to know exactly the boundaries of the plot and to design a future land development plan. The drones are capable of making aerial maps as well as contour lines of a plot of land. This geo-referenced and ready-to-use map is an essential element of our offering.”
Above current standards
INVESTIV’s drone services help achieve performance levels above current standards. “In Côte d'Ivoire and elsewhere in West Africa, 50% of agricultural losses are related to plant diseases. Today more than ever, it is essential to quickly identify outbreaks on plots in order to find adequate solutions to optimize production, prevent attacks and avoid production losses. Aboubacar Karim: “We have drones equipped with multi-spectral sensors to quickly identify areas of disease, less fertile areas and less hydrated, so as to make fertilizer spreading and much more precise phytosanitary treatments, manage the water resource and save inputs. The use of drones allows for earlier detection of pests and diseases and for more effectiveness of the counter-measures.”
The INVESTIV drones can also help boost production, to produce more on smaller areas and products of good qualities while respecting the environment. “We offer drone spraying as a solution to protect crops, provide essential nutrients in time and with unparalleled precision. We are equipped with drones having a capacity of 10 to 20L able to spray 2ha in less than 10 minutes while guaranteeing interesting results thanks to our methodologies developed internally. We perform interventions on production and get paid per hectare or per production.”
Capital for growth
Karim insists that finding the right personnel and training them to fly and maintain the drones is only one challenge INVESTIV is facing. The other challenge is finding the capital to further growth. The young entrepreneur is proud to have won the 2018 African Youth Agripreneur Forum and AgriPitch Competition that was launched by the African Development Bank. The prize money involved was very welcome, but cash flow remains a topic of constant worry.
“I try to be clever with money. I welcome young people on my team that are eager to learn – I train them myself as there is no formal education for this industry. To keep the cost of operation and maintenance of the drones low, we try not to rely on technical support from suppliers too much. We assemble the drones ourselves and build our own technical expertise in this area, just as we train our own drone pilots. We now have a fleet of ten drones, including the dedicated spraying drones. We will have to invest in more drones as our operation grows.”
Next: West Africa
What is Aboubacar Karim’s biggest dream? “To build on the current technologies and services and to make INVESTIV the specialist for drone-based precision agriculture, not just in Ivory Coast, but in West Africa. To achieve this, we have to continue delivering good results, and continue to build trust. We need to go to villages in new regions and show farmers what we can do with our new technology: better results with less resources. Saving time and money while producing better and more crops.”