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AgTech Investments

South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics raised US$5.5 million in funding from Naspers Foundry

Cape Town-based Aerobotics, uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms. This helps in early problem detection and offer personalised solutions to tree and wine farmers and optimise crop performance. The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.

Food security was of paramount importance, and the Aerobotics platform provided a positive contribution towards helping to sustain it. This importance has been highlighted further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with agriculture considered globally as critical infrastructure

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, South Africa CEO at Naspers

Aerobotics uses drone flights to track tree health and size, using multispectral, high resolution drone imagery. This helps in identification of areas needing attention by a real time comparison with historical satellite health data, and make data driven decisions on the farm, using AI-based analytics platform. Aerobotics provide tools to make actionable decisions on the farm for

  • Orchard Management
  • Problem Tree Identification
  • Pest and Disease Management
  • Yield Management

Aerobotics has demonstrated success in the ability to collect and analyse tree and fruit-level information, which are critical to the agricultural industry. The services are very relevant to commercial-scale farmers and crop insurance companies who require accurate tree-level information about their clients.

Read more at Disrupt Africa.

Categories
Crop Insurance

Crop insurance brings food security for farmers

The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative by the World Food Programme (WFP) provides an important platform for educating smallholder farmers on climate risk adaptation. The initiative, which began in 2017 in Kitui County in eastern Kenya, enables the poorest farmers to manage climate risk through crop insurance that they can access by participating in risk reduction activities. Under the R4 Initiative, farmers are financially compensated if their crop yields are low which enables them to keep their animals and other assets and still be food secure.

A farmer is compensated for the difference between the weight of what they have harvested and the average weight of the historical yields of that given ecological area

Crop insurance payouts have been critical in protecting poor families in times of severe drought or other shocks. However, insurance alone is not a magic bullet; that’s why crop insurance is integrated with improved farming techniques and infrastructure. If more smallholder farmers had access to this kind of initiative, the need and cost of humanitarian assistance could be vastly reduced.

Read more at WFP_Africa

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Investments

African Development Bank’s seed-bulking scheme boosts cassava yields in Zambia

For centuries, African farmers across the continent have grown cassava. But Zambia’s cassava growers were not deriving as much out of the crop as was possible. Farmers in the southern African country used low-quality planting materials and suffered from poor harvests leading to hunger and poverty across many of the country’s villages. To tackle this problem, the African Development Bank, through its Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation in the Savannahs (TAAT-S) flagship initiative, implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), provided Zambian farmers with a solution known as “seed bulking”.

This involves collecting seeds from a target crop and then growing them in a controlled setting. Using this method, farmers can multiply their bank of seeds, making them more secure and able to scale-up productivity. Five types of high-yielding cassava seeds were successfully introduced in an effort to boost yields and make the landlocked nation less reliant on food imports. Experts believe that modified seeds could help millions of smallholder farmers to get bigger harvests and earn extra cash.

Read more at AFDB

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Uncategorized

Study Suggests East Africa’s Ancient Pastoralists Processed Milk

A statement released by Washington University in St. Louis in St. Louis, scientists analyzed residues on pottery recovered from prehistoric sites in Kenya and Tanzania, and detected traces of cooked milk, meat, and plants. Grillo said the ability for adults to digest milk, known as lactase persistence, had been thought to have evolved in East Africa about 5,000 years ago, based upon previous genetic studies and the bones of cattle, sheep, and goats found at archaeological sites.

Most people don’t think about the fact that we are not really designed to drink milk as adults — most mammals can’t. People who had mutations that allowed them to digest fresh milk survived better in Africa.

Read more at The Source

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Uncategorized

Thailand scrambles to contain major outbreak of horse-killing virus

Thailand, already battling the spread of coronavirus, is now contending with another deadly viral outbreak—in horses. With hundreds of horse deaths reported there in the last 3 weeks, horse owners are rushing to seal their animals indoors with netting, away from biting midges that spread the virus for African horse sickness (AHS). Some scientists suspect that zebras, imported from Africa, led to the outbreak. It is the first major outbreak of the disease outside Africa in 30 years, and AHS experts are worried that it could spread to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

The AHS virus infects horses, donkeys, and zebras, and is typically transmitted by Culicoides midges that live in warm, tropical climates. The virus causes severe heart and lung disease that kills at least 70% of infected horses, but spares zebras and most donkeys, which act as reservoirs for the virus. Thailand has now lost its AHS disease-free status with the World Organisation for Animal Health, which means it must halt its imports and exports of equine species, wild and domestic. It will take at least 2 years to apply for disease-free status again.

Read more at ScienceMag

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Uncategorized

U.S. invests in Kenyans building a reliable food supply

A startup food-distribution company based in Kenya is getting help from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) as the company makes more food available for Kenyans while reducing waste. The DFC brings private-sector investment to developing countries. It recently announced a $5 million loan to Twiga Foods Ltd. The company, which just received its first disbursement of the loan, buys fresh produce from 17,000 farmers and processed food from manufacturers and then delivers it to 8,000 vendors, most of whom are women. The DFC loan will help Twiga secure additional trucks and delivery vans as well as cold-storage equipment to move more food to market.

DFC’s priority areas of investment include energy, health care, critical infrastructure, technology and financing for small businesses and women entrepreneurs. With an active portfolio of roughly $29 billion, DFC offers financing from $1 million to $1 billion. It focuses on investment in Africa, Eastern Europe, Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

Read more at ShareAmerica